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ALSO BYGREG GRANDIN 

Empire's Workshop: 
Latin America, the United States, 
and the Rise of the New Imperialism 
The Last Colonial Massacre: 
Latin America in the Cold War 

The Blood of Guatemala: 
A History of Race and Nation 



FORDLANDIA 



FORDLANDIA 

The Rise and fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle Ory 



Greg Grandin 



MrtrMOlltM Botkt • H«lri Holt >• < loo ; ,n, • Nr. Yo<» 



Metropolitan Books 
Henry Holt and Company, LLC 
Publishers since 1866 
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Metropolitan Books" and HIP are registered trademarks of 
Henry Holt and Company, LLC. 
Copyright © 2009 Greg Grandin 
All rights reserved. 
Distributed in Canada by H. B. Fenn and Company Ltd. 
"DEEP NIGHT 11 
RUDY VALLEE, CHARLIE HENDERSON 
© 1929 WARNER BROS. EMC. (Renewed) 
Rights for the Extended Renewal Term in the United Stales controlled by WB MUSIC CORP. and 
WARNER BROS. INC. 
This arrangement © WB MUSIC CORP. and WARNER BROS. INC. 
All Rights Reserved 
Used by pennission from ALFRED PUBLISHING CO., INC. 
"RAMONA 11 

Music by MABEL WAYNE Words by L. Wolfe Gilbert 
© 1927 (Renewed 1955) EMI FEIST CATALOG INC. 
All Rights Controlled by EMI FEIST CATALOG INC. (Publishing) and ALFRED PUBLISHING 
CO., EMC. 
All Rights Reserved 
Used by pennission irom ALFRED PUBLISHING CO., INC. 
"Santarem" from The Complete Poems 1927-1979, by Elizabeth Bishop. Copyright © 1979, 1983 
by Alice Helen Methfessel. Reprinted by pennission ofFanar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. 
Library ofCongress CataJoging-in-Publi cation Data 
Grandin, Greg, 1962- 

Fordlandia : the rise and fill of Henry Ford's forgotten jungle city / Greg Grandin. — 1st ed. 
p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 
ISBN-13: 978-0-8050-8236^ 
ISBN-10: 0-8050-8236-0 

1. Fordlandia (Brazil) — History. 2. Planned communities — Brazil — History — 20th century. 3. Rubber 
plantations — Brazil — Fordlandia — History — 20th century. 4. Ford Motor Company — Influence — History 
— 20th century. 5. Ford, Henry, 1863-1947 — Political and social views. 6. Brazil — Civilization 
— American influences — History — 20th century. I. Title. 
F2651.F55G72 2009 
307.76'8098115— dc22 
200804964 

Henry Holt books are available for special promotions and premiums. For details contact: Director, 



Special Markets. 
First Edition 2009 
Designed by Meryl Sussman Levavi 
Maps by Jeffrey L. Ward 
Printed in the United States ofAmerica 
13579 10 8642 



To Emilia Viotti da Costa 



Why, though, did we need a Mahagonny? 
Because this world is a foul one. 

— BERTOLT BRECHT 

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny 



CONTENTS 

INTRODUCTION: Nothing Is Wrong with Anything 

PARTI: MANY THINGS OTHERWISE INEXPLICABLE 

1 : Under an American Flag 

2: The Cow Must Go 

3: Absolute Americanisms 

4: That's Where We Sure Can Get Gold 

5: Fordville 

6: They WfllAU Die 

7: Everything Jake 

8: When Ford Comes 

PART fl: LORD FORD 

9: Two Rivers 

10: Smoke and Ash 

11: Prophesied Subjection 

12: The Ford Way of Thinking 

13: What Would You Give for a Good Job? 

14: Let's Wander Out Yonder 

15: Kill All the Americans 

PART Eg: RUBBER ROUGE 

16: American Pastoral 

17: Good Lines. Straight and True 

18: Mountains of the Moon 

19: Only God Can Grow a Tree 

20: Standard Practices 

21: Bonfire of the Caterpillars 

22: Fallen Empire of Rubber 

23: Tomorrow Land 

EPILOGUE: Still Waiting for Henry Ford 
Notes 

Illustration Credits 
Acknowledgments 



FORDLANDIA 



Ttrritorj 



INTRODUCTION 
NOTHING IS WRONG WITH ANYTHING 

JANUARY 9, 1928: HENRYFORD WAS INA SPIRITED MOOD AS HE 
toured the Ford Industrial Exhibit with his son, Edsel, and his aging friend 
Thomas Edison, feigning fright at the flash of news cameras as a circle of police 
officers held back admirers and reporters. The event was held in New York, to 
showcase the new Model A. Until recently, nearly half of all the cars produced 
in the world were Model Ts, which Ford had been building since 1908. But by 
1927 the T's market share had dropped considerably. A half decade of 
prosperity and cheap credit had increased demand for stylized, more luxurious 
cars. General Motors gave customers dozens of lacquer colors and a range of 
upholstery options to choose from while the Ford car came in green, red, blue, 
and black — which at least was more variety than a few years earlier when Ford 
reportedly told his customers they could have their car in any color they 
wanted, "so long as it's black. "- 

From May 1927, when the Ford Motor Company stopped production on the 
T, to October, when the first Model A was assembled, many doubted that Ford 
could pull off the changeover. It was costing a fortune, estimated by one 
historian at $250 million, because the internal workings of the just-opened River 
Rouge factory, which had been designed to roll out Ts into the indefinite future, 
had to be refitted to make the A. Yet on the first two days of its debut, over ten 
million Americans visited their local Ford dealers to inspect the new car, 
available in a range of body types and colors including Arabian Sand, Rose 
Beige, andAndalusite Blue. Within a few months, the company had received 
over 700,000 orders for the A, and even Ford's detractors had to admit that he 
had staged a remarkable comebaclc- 

The New York exhibit was held in the old Fiftieth Street Madison Square 
Garden, drawing over a million people and eclips ing the nearby National Car 
Show. All the many styles of the new model were on display at the Garden, as 
was the Lincoln Touring Car, since Ford had bought Lincoln Motors sixyears 
earlier, giving him a foot in the luxury car market without having to reconfigure 
his own factories. But the Ford exhibit wasn't really an automobile show. It was 
rather "built around this one idea," said Edsel: "a visual demonstration of the 
operation of the Ford industries, from the raw materials to the finished product." 
Visitors passed by displays of the manically synchronized workstations that 
Ford was famous for, demonstrations of how glass, upholstery, and leather 
trimmings were made, and dioramas of Ford's iron and coal nines, his blast 



furnaces, gas plants, northern Michigan timberlands, and fleets of planes and 
ships. A few even got to see Henry hims elf direct operations. "Speed that 
machine up a bit," he said as he passed a "'mobile model of two men leisurely 
sawing a tree, against a background of dense forest growth. "- 

Though he was known to have opinions on many matters, as Henry Ford 
made his way through the convention hall reporters asked himmostly about his 
cars and his money. "How much are you worth?" one shouted out. "I don't 
know and I don't give a damn," Ford answered. Stopping to give an impromptu 
press conference in front of an old lathe he had used to make his first car, Ford 
said he was optimistic about the coming year, sure that his new River Rouge 
plant — located in Ford's hometown of Dearborn, just outside of Detroit — would 
be able to meet demand. No one raised his recent humiliating repudiation of 
anti-Semitism, though while in New York Ford met with members of the 
American Jewish Committee to stage the "final scene in the reconciliation 
between Henry Ford and American Jewry," as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency 
described the conference. Most reporters tossed feel-good questions. One 
wanted to know about his key to success. "Concentration on details," Ford 
said. "When I worked at that lathe in 1894" — the carmaker nodded to the 
machine behind him — "I never thought about anything else." A journalist did 
ask him about reports of a price war and whether it would force him to lower his 
asking price for the A. 

"I know nothing about it," replied Ford, who for decades had set his own 
prices and wages free of serious competition. "Nothing is wrong with 
anything," he said, "and I don't see any reason to believe that the present 
prosperity will not continue."- 

FORD WANTED TO talk about something other than autorrobiles . The 
previous August he had taken his first airplane ride, a ten-minute circle over 
Detroit in his friend Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis , just a few months 
after Lindbergh had made his historic nonstop transatlantic trip. Ford bragged 
that he "handled the stick" for a little while. He was "strong for air travel," he 
said, and was working on a lightweight diesel airplane engine. Ford then 
announced that he would soon fly to theAmazon to inspect his new rubber 
plantation. "If I go to Brazil," he said, "it will be by airplane. I would never 
spend 20 days making the trip by boat."- 

Ford didn't elaborate, and reporters seemed a bit puzzled. So Edsel stepped 
forward to explain. The plantation was on the Tapajos River, a branch of the 
Amazon, he said. 



Amid all the excitement over the Model A, most barely noted that the Ford 
Motor Company had recently acquired an enormous land concession in the 
Amazon. Inevitably compared in size to a midranged US state, usually 
Connecticut but sometimes Tennessee, the property was to be used to grow 
rubber. Despite Thomas Edison's best efforts to produce domestic or synthetic 
aibber, latex was the one important natural resource that Ford didn't control, 
even though his New York exhibit included a model of a rubber plantation. "The 
details have been closed," Edsel had announced in the official press release 
about the acquisition, "and the work will begin at once." It would include 
building a town and launching a "widespread sanitary campaign against the 
dangers of the jungle," he said. "Boats of the Ford fleet will be in 
communication with the property and it is possible that airplane communication 
may also be attempted. - 

In the months that followed, as the excitement of the Model A died down, 
journalists and opinion makers began to pay attention to Fordlandia, as Ford's 
Brazilian project soon came to be called. And they reported the enterprise as a 
contest between two irrepressible forces. On one side stood the industrialist 
who had perfected the assembly line and broken down the manufacturing 
process into ever simpler components geared toward making one single 
infinitely reproducible product, the first indistinguishable fromthe millionth. 
"My effort is in the direction of simplicity," Ford once said. On the other was 
the storied Amazon basin, spilling over into nine countries and comprising a full 
third of South America, a place so wild and diverse that the waters just around 
where Ford planned to establish his plantation contained more species offish 
than all the rivers of Europe combined.- 

It was billed as a proxy fight: Ford represented vigor, dynamism, and the 
aishing energy that defined American capitalism in the early twentieth century; 
the Amazon embodied primal stillness, an ancient world that had so far proved 
unconquerable. "If the machine, the tractor, can open a breach in the great 
green wall of the Amazon jungle, if Ford plants millions of rubber trees where 
there used to be nothing but jungle solitude," wrote a German daily, "then the 
romantic history of rubber will have a new chapter. A new and titanic fight 
between nature and modem man is beginning." One Brazilian writer predicted 
that Ford would finally fulfill the prophecy of Alexander von Humboldt, the 
Prussian naturalist who over a century earlier said that the Amazon was 
destined to become the "world's granary." And as if to underscore the danger 
of the challenge, just at the moment Ford was deciding to get into the rubber 



business, the public's attention was captivated by reports of the disappearance 
of the British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett. Having convinced himself, based 
on a combination of archival research, deduction, and clairvoyance, of the 
existence of a lost city (which he decided to name "Z") just south of where Ford 
would establish his plantation, Fawcett entered the jungle to find it. He was 
never heard fromagain.- 

In the case of Ford, who had all the resources of the industrial world at his 
disposal, journalists had no doubt about the outcome, and they reported on his 
civilizing mission in expectant prose. Time reported that Ford intended to 
increase its rubber planting every year '"until the whole jungle is industrialized," 
cheered on by the forest's inhabitants : "soon boa constrictors will slip down 
into the jungle centers; monkeys will set up a great chattering. Black Indians 
armed with heavy blades will slash down their one-time haunts to make way for 
future windshield wipers, floor mats, balloon tires." Ford was bringing "white 
man's magic" to the wilderness, the Washington Post wrote, intending to 
cultivate not only "rubber but the rubber gatherers as well."- 

Since the sixteenth century, stories of El Dorado, an Indian king so rich that 
he powdered himself with gold, lured countless fortune hunters on futile 
quests. The word quixotic has its origins in a story set on the Spanish plains, in 
the same century when Europeans were first entering the Amazon. It's often 
applied to those entranced by the promise ofjungle riches, as certain ofthe 
existence ofthe object of their pursuit as the Man from La Mancha was that the 
windmills he tilted at were giants. "I call it Z," said Colonel Fawcett of his fabled 
city, "for the sake of convenience."— 

Ford, though, turned the El Dorado myth inside out. The richest man in the 
world, he was the gilded one — the "Jesus Christ of industry," one Brazilian 
writer called him, while another called himaNew World "Moses" — and 
salvation of Brazil's long-moribund rubber industry and the Amazon itself was 
to come from his touch. The "Kingdomof Fordlandia," however, was decidedly 
secular, and its magic technological. Ford's move into northern Brazil took place 
on the cusp of two eras, as the age of adventure gave way to the age of 
commerce.— 

Their time passing, explorers acted as Ford's John the Baptists, walking 
through a fallen land and heralding its deliverance even as they faded from the 
scene. Theodore Roosevelt's Through the Brazilian Wilderness — an account of 
the former president's last jungle expedition, taken in 1914, just a few years 
before his death, to survey a heretofore uncharted Amazon river- — predicted 



that the treacherous rapids that nearly cost himhis life would eventually 
provide enough hydropowerto support a "number of big manufacturing 
communities, knit by railroads to one another." Francis Gow Smith, a member of 
New\brk's Explorers Club, was in Brazil searching for Colonel Fawcett when 
news got out that Ford had secured his Brazilian concession. In a lengthy 
dispatch from the field, Smith described his near lethal encounter with the "King 
of the Xingu" — a rich and ruthless rubber baron on the Xingu River who 
"typifies the feudal tyranny of plantation methods in Brazil just as his new 
competitor" Heniy Ford "typifies North America's industrial enterprise." The 
"jungle millionaire" terrorized his "peons," keeping themin a state of perpetual 
debt, locking those who dared to challenge his authority in stockades, beating 
them unmercifully, and leaving them to lie for hours on the ground as vampire 
bats "feast upon their blood and hordes of ants gnaw at their bare skins." 
Henry Ford "has never met his jungle rival," Smith wrote, but his "Brazilian 
project will be the wiping out of the King of Xingu 's rubber monopoly, the 
liberation of his peons and the dawn of a new day for Brazilian prosperity."— 

TFfEAMAZON IS a temptress : its chroniclers can't seem to resist invoking 
the jungle not as an ecological system but as a metaphysical testing ground, a 
place that seduces man to impose his will only to expose that will as impotent. 
Nineteenth- and early -twentieth-century explorers and missionaries often 
portrayed the jungle either as evil inherent or as revealing the evil men carry 
inside. Traveling through the region in 1930, the Anglican lay leader Kenneth 
Grubb wrote that the forest brings out the "worst instincts of man, brutalizes 
the affections, hardens the emotions, and draws out with malign and terrible 
intention every evil and sordid lust." Theodore Roosevelt's account of his 
expedition, which first ran as a serial in Schbner s, likewise painted the Amazon 
as a malevolent place, where things "sinister and evil" lurked in the "dark 
stillness" of its groves . Ancient trees didn't just fall and decompose but were 
"murdered," garroted by the ever tighter twists of vines. Roosevelt described 
the jungle as being largely "uninhabited by human beings," portraying its 
challenges as nearly wholly natural, even preternatural, captured in gothic 
depictions of "blood-crazy" fish and "bloodsucking" vampire bats. The jungle 
was "entirely indifferent to good or evil," he wrote, working "out her ends or no 
ends with utter disregard of pain and woe." For those readers not familiar with 
the theology that hell is the absence of God, the Rough Rider left little doubt as 
to the analogy he was implicitly drawing: he began his tale with a detailed 
seventeen-page description of treacherous serpents.— 



Even more recently, those who survive encounters with the jungle primeval 
are often compelled to search for some larger meaning in its severity, holding it 
up as a touchstone to expose the charade of human progress. "We are 
challenging nature itself and it hits back, it just hits back, that's all," said the 
German film director Werner Herzog of the hardships he encountered in making 
his 1982 ffimFitzcarraldo. Herzog's notorious attempt to replicate the 
compulsion of his title character, played by Klaus Kinski, and pull a 340-ton 
steamship over an Amazon mountain {the movie is based on the life of Carlos 
Fermin Fitzcarrald Lopez, who had the good sense to dismantle the boat before 
proceeding) leads him to ponder the ethical vacuity of the natural world: 
"Kinski always says [nature] is full of erotic elements. I don't see it so much as 
erotic. I see it more as full of obscenity. . . . Nature here is violent, base. I 
wouldn't see anything erotical here. I would see fornication, and asphyxiation, 
and choking, and fighting for survival, . . . just rotting away. Of course there is 
lots of misery but it is to say misery that is all around us. The trees here are in 
misery, the birds here are in misery. They don't sing, they just screech in pain. 

But Henry Ford, along with the men and women he sent down to build his 
settlement, proved tone-deaf to these kinds ofmusings, to the metaphors and 
cliches that entangle much of the writing on the Amazon. There was a stubborn 
literalness about the midwestemers, engineers mostly but also lumberjacks and 
sawyers, many of them from Ford's timber operations in Michigan's Upper 
Peninsula. Confronted by the jungle, they didn't turn philosophical. When they 
looked up in the sky and saw vultures, those rank, jowled carrion eaters that 
induced in other Amazon wanderers a sense of their transience, they thought of 
Detroit's pigeons. Life in the dense river forest was hard on many of the Ford 
staff. Boredom could be overpowering, and a few succumbed to disease and 
death. Yet rather than provoking thoughts of morality or mortality, the Amazon 
tended to instill melancholy in Ford's pioneers, a desire to re-create a bygone 
America, an America that the Ford Motor Company played no small part in 
dispatching. 

While he avoided the more feverish adjectives often attached to the 
Amazon, Ford nonetheless saw the jungle as a challenge, but it had less to do 
with overcoming and dorninating nature than it did with salvaging a vision of 
Americana that was slipping out of his grasp at home. That vision was rooted in 
his experience growing up on a farm in Dearborn and entailed using his wealth 
and industrial method to safeguard rural virtues and remedy urban ills. He was 
in his sixties when he founded Fordlandia — orFordlandia in Brazilian 



Portuguese, the circumflex indicating a closed, pinched vowel, the final three 
letters pronounced "jee-ah" — and the settlement became the terminus for a 
lifetime of venturesome notions about the best way to organize society. 

Ford's idea of a worthy life was chivalrous, especially in its promotion of 
ballroom dancing. But it was distinctly not adventurous, in contrast to the 
privations of war, frontier living, and jungle exploration that someone like 
Theodore Roosevelt celebrated for their ability to strengthen character. "The 
man who works hard," Ford once said, ''should have his easy-chair, his 
comfortable fireside, his pleasant sunoundings." And so in the Amazon, Ford 
built Cape Cod-style shingled houses for his Brazilian workers and urged them 
to tend flower and vegetable gardens and eat whole wheat bread and 
unpolished rice. Coming upon Fordlandia after a trip of hundreds of miles 
through the jungle, the US military attache to Brazil, Major Lester Baker, called 
Fordlandia an oasis, a midwestem "dream," complete with "electric lights, 
telephones, washing machines, victrolas, and electric refrigerators." Managers 
enforced Prohibition, or at least tried to, though it wasn't a Brazilian law, and 
nurseries experimented with giving soy milk to babies, because Henry Ford 
hated cows. On weekends, the plantation sponsored square dances and 
recitations of poetry by William Wordsworth and Henry Longfellow. The 
workers, most of themborn and raised in the Amazon, were shown 
documentaries on African and Antarctic expeditions, including Admiral Richard 
Byrd's 1929 journey to the South Pole, as well as shorts promoting tourismin 
Yellowstone Park and celebrating the new, streamlined Lincoln Zephyr. "Henry 
Ford has transplanted a large slice of twentieth century civilization" to the 
Amazon, reported Michigan's Iwn Mountain Daily News, bringing "a 
prosperity to the natives that they never before experienced."— 

Over the course of nearly two decades, Ford would spend tens of millions 
of dollars founding not one but, after the first plantation was devastated by leaf 
blight, two American towns, complete with central squares, sidewalks, indoor 
plumbing, hospitals, manicured lawns, movie theaters, swimming pools, golf 
courses, and, of course, Model Ts and As rolling down their paved streets. 

Back in America, newspapers kept up their drumbeat celebration, only 
obliquely referencing reports that things were not progressing as the company 
had hoped. But there was one note of skepticism In late 1928, the Washington 
Post ran an editorial that read in its entirety: "Ford will govern a rubber 
plantation in Brazil larger than North Carolina. This is the first time he has 
applied quantity production methods to trouble."— 



IT STILL TAKES about eighteen hours on a slow riverboat to get to 
Fordlandia from the nearest provincial city, as long as it did eighty years ago 
when Ford first sent a crew of Michigan engineers and lumberjacks to begin 
construction on his town. I've made the trip twice, and the second time it was 
no less jolting after hours of passing little but green to round a river bend and 
come upon a 150-foot tower bursting from the forest canopy holding aloft a 
150,000-gallon water tank. Decades of rain have since scrubbed off its cursive 
white Ford logo, yet at the time of its construction the tower was the tallest 
man-made structure in the Amazon, save for a pair of now dismantled 
smokestacks that had been attached to the powerhouse. It was the crown jewel 
of an elaborate water system that daily pumped half a million gallons of filtered 
and chlorinated water drawn from the river to the town, plantation, and ice plant. 
Miles of buried pipes fed into indoor sinks and toilets, sewers carried away 
household waste, and fire hydrants — still a novelty in even the largest Latin 
American cities — dotted the town's sidewalks. The water system was run by an 
electric plant made up of steamboilers, generators, turbines, and engines 
salvaged from decommissioned navy ships stripped down to scrap at the River 
Rouge plant a few years earlier, Ford being a pioneer in industrial recycling. 

Fordlandia stands on the eastern side of the Tapajos River, the Amazon's 
fifth largest tributary. Flowing south to north and intersecting with the Amazon 
about sixhundred miles from the Atlantic, the Tapajos is a broad river, with 
sloping sandy banks that give way to a gradual rise, and at no point on the trip 
does one feel that the jungle is closing in. It is home to a staggering number of 
fish, insects, plants, and animals. Yet the valley's big-sky openness often instills 
in travelers a sensation of tedium "The prevailing note in the Amazon is one of 
monotony," thought Kenneth Grubb, "the same green lines the river-bank, the 
same gloomfills the forest. . . . Each successive bend in the river is rounded in 
expectancy, only to reveal another identical stretch ahead." But then one 
beholds Ford's miragelike industrial plant. "When the view is had from the deck 
of a river steamer," wrote Ogden Pierrot, a U.S. diplomat stationed in Rio, "the 
imposing structures of the industrial section of the town, with the tremendous 
water tank and the smokestack of the powerhouse, catch the view and create a 
sensation of real wonderment.' — 

As my boat made its way to Fordlandia 's dock, the wind cut the jungle 
humidity, which, in any case, really wasn't that bad. Up a hill from the river's 
edge stood the town's Catholic church, built after the Ford Motor Company 
abandoned the place. Ford's managers allowed priests to visit and minister to 
the population but refused the request of the local bishop to establish a 



permanent mission and run the town's schools. Farther back loomed the famous 
water tower, along with the empty lumber mill and power plant. Everything was 
peaceful and calm, and indeed much more suggestive of Ford's easy-chair 
arcadia than nature red in tooth and claw. It was difficult to picture the chaos 
that befell this shore eight decades ago. 

The first years of the settlement were plagued by waste, violence, and vice, 
making Fordlandia more Deadwood than Our Town. The death rate frommalaria 
and yellow fever was high. Bending to hack away at the underbrush with 
machetes, scores offrontline cutters died from viper bites. Those who fled the 
plantation brought with themtales of knife fights, riots, and strikes. They 
complained of rancid food and corrupt and incompetent overseers who 
defrauded themof pay and turned the forest into a mud hole, burning large 
swaths of the jungle without the slightest idea of how to plant rubber. In what 
was perhaps the biggest man-made fire in that part of the Amazon to date, 
burning leaves floated to the far side of the river as ash wafted across the sky, 
turning clouds of the rainy season sky into a blood orange haze. Building 
material sent fromDearbom rusted and rotted on the riverbank. Bags of cement 
turned to stone in the rain. Migrants desperate for jobs, many ofthemfrom 
Brazil's drought- and famine-stricken northeast, poured into the work camp on 
rumors that Ford would be hiring tens of thousands of employees and paying 
five dollars a day. They trailed behind them wives, children, parents, cousins, 
aunts, and uncles, building makeshift houses frompacking crates and canvas 
tarps. Rather than a midwestem city ofvirtue springing fromthe Amazon green, 
local merchants set up thatched bordellos, bars, and gambling houses, turning 
Fordlandia into a rain forest boomtown. Managers eventually established 
sovereignty over the settlement and achieved something approximating their 
boss's vision. But then nature rebelled. 



"Landmarks am absent, "mote the lay Anglican leader Kenneth Gruhb about his travels 
around the Amazon in the late 1920s, "and there is nothing by which progress can be 
marked. ' ' Fordlandia 's water tower was a rare exception . 

HUBRIS SEEMS THE obvious moral attached to Fordlandia, especially 
considering not just the disaster of its early years but also, even once order was 
established and the city was more or less functional, rubber's refusal to submit 
to Ford-style regimentation. Yet surveying what remains of it left me with an 
almost elegiac feeling. Despite the promiscuous use of fire by its first managers, 
along with the running of what was billed as the most modem sawmill in all of 
Latin America, the town doesn't so much invoke the plague of deforestation. 
That would be easy to rebuke. It rather brings to mind a different kind of loss: 
deindustrialization. There is in fact an uncanny resemblance between 
Fordlandia 's rusting water tower, broken-glassed sawmill, and empty power 
plant and the husks of the same structures in Iron Mountain, a depressed 
industrial city in Michigan's Upper Peninsula that also used to be a Ford town. 

About a mile and a half from the dock, on a hill hooked by a river bend, sits 



the abandoned "American neighborhood." The wood-framed buildings are 
properly Protestant and not too ostentatious, complete with shingled roofs, 
plank floors, plaster walls, decorative moldings, tile bathrooms, electric 
refrigerators, and wall sconces. Decrepit and overrun by weeds, as could be 
ejected, the houses are now home to colonies of bats, which have left a patina 
of guano on the walls and floors. The residences flank "Palm Avenue," which is 
actually shaded by mango trees, a hint that the company made some 
concession to the jungle ecology. Elms or maples would have wilted in the wet 
heat. Yet concrete sidewalks, electric street-lamps, and those red fire hydrants 
confirm that it made such compromises reluctantly. 

Goserto the river, Brazilians, including some surviving Ford employees, 
continue to live in smaller mill town bungalows, along three long avenues that 
follow the contours of the land. Though they have since been renamed, the 
street closest to the Tapajos was called "Riverside Avenue," the farthest, 
hugging the beginning of an incline, "Hillside." In the middle was Main Street. 
The powerhouse and sawmill, both with walls of floor-to-ceiling windows, 
separate the two residential areas. The turbines and generators have been 
removed from the engine room, but industrial ephemera are still scattered 
around the mill. Nuts and bolts fill wooden boxes carrying the name Standard 
Oil of Brazil, which did some exploratory work on the estate. About a dozen 
Landis Machine Company presses, dies, and stamps bear the mark "Made in the 
USA." Outside, buried in the jungle grass, are twisted rails, what's left of a 
three-mile train line that carried logs to the mill, though it's bewildering to think 
what force of nature or how the passing of time could have produced their 
current mangled state. 

Fordlandia's most striking building is set backfromthe river, on a knoll 
about half a mile in. It's a wreck of a hundred-bed hospital built from a sketch 
by Albert Kahn, the architect of Ford's Highland Park and River Rouge plants. 
Gracefully proportioned, well ventilated, with generous eaves and dormer 
windows jutting out of a pitched roof, the long and narrow jungle sanatorium 
seems lower to the ground than it really is, much like Kahn's celebrated 
enormous Highland Park factory. Inside, two dormitory wings are united by a 
series of rooms marked by signs indicating their fonuer function. Most of the 
beds are gone, but some equipment, made of metal and glass that today looks 
menacing but in the 1930s was state ofthe art, remains. In the sterilization room 
there's a large apparatus that suggests a front-load washing machine, and the 
gynecology room still has its examination table. The surgery and X-ray rooms 
are bare, but the laboratory has some bottles and test tubes lying around and 



the records of the hospital's last patients strewn on the floor. 

Unlike nineteenth-century British writers who lamented the coming of 
industrialization, Henry Ford saw the machine not as defiling the garden but 
rather as harmonizing with it. And Ford's Amazon town does seem to 
complement its setting, perhaps because the conceit that underwrote Fordlandia 
has been muted by its weed-entwined buildings, rotten floor planks, and guano- 
glazed walls. This impression is reinforced by the memories of residents, most 
too young to have experienced the company firsthand, who speak approvingly 
about the good wages Ford offered and the free health care provided by the 
town's hospital. Things were bom dermis, almost too good, says a man who 
moved to the town from downriver as a boy, when his father took a job on the 
plantation. Undoubtedly paternalistic, Ford's social program compares well with 
what is available to much of the world today. One doctor who accompanied a 
team of Sao Paulo medical students on a visit to the town in 2006 said 
contemporary Fordlandia residents who are sick have two options: those with 
money travel by river to a doctor; those who don't have money learn to suffer 
their illness. America Lobato, eighty -one years old on my first trip to Fordlandia, 
in 2005, was in the lucky group, but barely. She began working at the age of 
sixteen as a babys itter for a Ford administrator and therefore enjoyed a small 
pension fromthe Brazilian government. America remembers that the hospital 
didn't just treat company employees but took in patients from all over Brazil. 
"They couldn't do complicated operations like heart surgery," she said, but 
things like "the appendix or liver they took care of." America has since passed 
away, but during the last years of her life she had to travel nearly a full day by 
riverboat to a specialist to attend to her failing eyes and bad legs.— 

THE FOND MEMORIES with which America and others recalled the heyday 
of Fordlandia are understandable, considering the lack of opportunities, decent 
jobs, and basic services available to most residents of the region. But there's 
something particularto Henry Ford that summons a deeper poignancy than one 
would hear from residents in similarly derelict company towns elsewhere in 
Latin America, ruins from a time when US corporations rapidly expanded their 
operations throughout the hemisphere, built around mines, mills, and 
plantations. In 1917, Milton Hershey began work on a s ugar mill town outside 
the city of Santa Cruz, Cuba, which he named Hershey and which, when 
finished, included American-style bungalows, luxurious houses for staff, 
schools, a hospital, a baseball diamond, and a number of movie theaters. At the 
height of the banana boomof the 1920s, one could tour Guatemala, Costa Rica, 
Panama, Honduras, Cuba, and Colombia and not for a moment leave United 



Fruit Company property, traveling on its trains and ships, passing through its 
ports, staying in its many towns, with their tree-lined streets and modern 
amenities, in a company hotel or guest house, playing golf on its links, taking in 
a Hollywood movie in one of its theaters, and being tended to in its hospital if 
sick. 

All of these enterprises of course say something about the way the United 
States spread out in the world, capturing in clapboard simplicity the 
assuredness with which businessmen and politicians believed that the 
American way of life could be easily transplanted and eagerly welcomed 
elsewhere. In the United States, company towns were hailed not just for the 
earnings they generated for their companies but for the benefits they brought 
Latin Americans, and many observers explicitly thought them a New World 
alternative to European imperialism — that is, run by private interests rather than 
government ministries. Just as the "conquest by Europe of the tropics of Africa, 
Asia, and the islands of the Pacific will be recounted by future historians as the 
monumental achievement of this age" for bringing "high civilization" to 
benighted lands, thought the business writer Frederick Upham Adams, so, too, 
would the United Fruit Company be celebrated for carving an "empire" in the 
"wilderness" that included not just modem industrial technology and up-to- 
date sanitary practices but "picturesque settlements," complete with "places of 
amusement, well-kept streets, electric lights, and most ofthe accessories of 
civilization."— 

But the story of Fordlandia cuts deeper into the marrow ofthe American 
experience. Not because its trappings more faithfully represent the life and 
culture of the United States than those found in Hershey, Cuba, or in United 
Fruit Company towns: many ofthe features of Ford's Amazon town most 
commented on for their incongruity in a jungle setting in fact reflected 
eccentricities particular to the cannaker. Rather, what makes Fordlandia more 
quintessentially American was the way frustrated idealism was built into its 
conception. 

Over fifty years ago, the Harvard historian Perry Miller gave his famous 
"Errand into the Wilderness" lecture in which he tried to explain why English 
Puritans lit out for the New World to begin with, as opposed to, say, going to 
Holland. They went, Milleroffered by way of an answer, not just to preserve 
their "posterity from the corruption of this evil world" as it was manifest in the 
Church of England but to complete the Protestant reformation of Christendom 
that had stalled in Europe. In a "bare land, devoid of already established (and 
corrupt) institutions, empty of bishops and courtiers," they would "start de 



novo." The Puritans did not flee to America, Miller said, but rather sought to 
give the faithful back in England a "working model" of a purer community. 
Thus, central from the start to American expansion was "deep disquietude," a 
feeling that "something had gone wrong" — not only with the inability of the 
Reformation to redeemEurope but subsequently with the failure to achieve 
perfection, to found and maintain a "pure biblical polity" in New England. With 
the Massachusetts Bay Colony just a few decades old, a dissatisfied Cotton 
Mather began to learn Spanish, thinking that a better "New Jerusalem" could be 
raised in Mexico.— 

The founding ofFordlandia was driven by a similar restlessness, a chafing 
sense that "something had gone wrong" in America. Other company towns, 
despite their much publicized altruism, lived and died by the economic logic that 
led to their establishment. Hershey, Cuba, supplied sugar to Hershey, 
Pennsylvania's chocolate factories for decades, until 1945, when it made more 
sense to purchase the crop from independent mills. Fordlandia, however, moved 
to rhythms set not by supply and demand but rather by the ups and downs of 
American life, which Henry Ford pledged to reform Ford's frustrations with 
domestic politics and culture were legion: war, unions, Wall Street, energy 
monopolies, Jews, modem dance, cow's milk, the Roosevelts, cigarettes, 
alcohol, and creeping government intervention. Yet churning beneath all these 
annoyances was the fact that the force of industrial capitalismhe helped 
unleash was undermining the world he hoped to restore. 

FORDLANDIA' S LESSON WOULD seem to be particularly resonant today. 
With a surety of purpose and incuriosity about the world that seems all too 
familiar, Ford deliberately rejected expert advice and set out to turn the Amazon 
into the Midwest of his imagination. "What the people of the interior of Brazil 
need," he declared at the outset of the project, "is to have their economic life 
stabilized by fair returns for their labor paid in cash and their mode of living 
brought up to modem standards in sanitation and in prevention and cure of 
disease." This formula worked in Michigan and Ford saw no reason it couldn't 
be exported to Brazil. "There will not be," Ford said, "any great difficulty in 
accomplishing these things." Fordism was a term that would go on to have 
many meanings, but its first usage captured the essence of cocks ureness, 
defined by the Washington Post as "Ford efforts conceived in disregard or 
ignorance of Ford limitations."— 

If anything, failure only made Ford and his emissaries more certain. The 
more Ford's errand to grow rubber, as originally stated, proved impossible to 



fulfill, the more he and his company revised their warrant, justifying their 
Brazilian mission in evermore idealistic tenns, especially after the onset of the 
Great Depression, when the settlement was held up as a Ford-built solution for 
surviving hard times. 

Two years into the construction of Fordlandia, after visiting the plantation 
site and witnessing firsthand the chaos that reigned there, one US diplomat 
stationed in Brazil wrote his superiors in the State Department to try to explain 
Ford's ongoing commitment to a "venture which apparently will never be 
commercially profitable": 

In the last few months, the writer has arrived at an opinion, based on 
a number of different facts, which seems to be the only theory which will 
fit all of these facts. This belief is that Mr. Ford considers the project as 
a "work of civilization." This very phrase has been used in 
correspondence of one of the higher officials of the Detroit office. 
Nothing else will esq? lain the lavish expenditure of money, at least three 
million dollars in the last sixteen months, in laying the foundation of 
what is evidently planned to become a city of two or three hundred 
thousand inhabitants. 

On the basis of this theory, discarding any interpretation ascribing 
to the work the character of a purely commercial venture, it is possible to 
understand many things which are otherwise inexplicable.— 
The journalist Walter Lippmann identified in Henry Ford, for all his 
peculiarity, a common strain of "primitive Americanism." The industrialist's 
conviction that he could make the world conform to his will was founded on a 
faith that success in economic matters should, by extension, allow capitalists to 
try their hands "with equal success" at "every other occupation." "Mr. Ford is 
neither a crank nor a freak," Lippmann insisted, but "merely the logical exponent 
of American prejudices about wealth and success."— 

For Lippmann, Ford represented the essence of Americanism not just 
because he embodied a confidence bom of money but also because he reflected 
"our touching belief that the world is like ourselves." "Why shouldn't success 
in Detroit," Lippmann asked, "assure success in front of Baghdad?" 
And if Baghdad, then certainly Brazil. 



PART I 

MANY THINGS OTHERWISE INEXPLICABLE 



CHAPTER 1 
UNDER AN AMERICAN FLAG 

OVERA LONG LUNCH AT HENRY FORD'S DEARBORN HOME, FORD 
listened to Harvey Firestone complain about the British. 

It was July 1925, and Firestone had thrown himself into a campaign to thwart 
Winston Churchill's proposed British rubber cartel For decades, US industry 
had imported rubber fromEuropean, predominately British, colonies in 
Southeast Asia with little problem. But when prices started to tumble in 1919, 
Churchill, the British secretary of state for the colonies, endorsed a plan to 
regulate the production of crude rubber to ensure supply didn't outstrip 
demand. The future Tory priine minister would go on to gain a reputation as a 
steadfast friend of America. But at the time, politicians and industrialists 
denounced himas an archimperialist and protectionist. Speaker of the House 
Nicholas Longworth called Churchill's plan an "international swindle." 
Tennessee's Representative Cordell Hull, who would later serve as FDR's 
secretary of state, likened the proposed cartel to a "hold-up. "- 

Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover stoked the anger. The man who 
would soon be president believed America's rubber supply to be industry's 
choke point, more critical in many ways than oil. Petroleum was found in 
domestic fields in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and California, as 
well as in neighboring Mexico and \enezuela, within easy reach of US 
gunboats. But rubber came froma world away, fromBritish, Dutch, and French 
plantations in Southeast Asia. Just as an increase in the demand for cotton in 
the nineteenth century reinvigorated America's slave plantation system, the 
growing US auto industry's thirst for rubber breathed new life into European 
colonialism, which had been weakened by World War I. Revenue from rubber 
— tapped and processed by cheap coolie labor — helped Amsterdam, London, 
and Paris bind their colonies in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Indochina 
tighter into their imperial system, with the profits from the sale of latexhelping 
England and France pay off their war debt. Hoover warned American 
manufacturers — riot just of cars but of any machine that used latex — that their 
supply ofrubberwas too dependent on old, imperialist Europe and that they 
could be subject to a "supercharge" of more than a half billion dollars if 
Holland and France were to join the proposed British cartel. He pointed out that 
if the United States adopted the same production restrictions and price controls 
that London was imposing on its rubber, the price of wheat would go from $1.50 
to $8.00 a bushel in foreign markets. The secretary of commerce urged US 
manufacturers to invest in rubber cultivation in Latin America and funded 
scientific expeditions into the Amazon to offset their research costs. Business 



leaders, though, largely responded with indifference to Hoover's alarm Except 
for Harvey Firestone and Henry Ford.- 

"I amgoing to fight this law with all the strength and vigor that is in me," 
Firestone pledged, and he asked Ford to join with him in organizing a rubber 
association. He had tried this before. In February 1923, he convened a "national 
conference of rubber, automotive, and accessory manufacturers." Over two 
hundred industrialists, including Ford, gathered in Washington at the Willard 
Hotel to hear Firestone make his declaration of "economic independence" from 
London. "Rubber under an American flag," he proclaimed, as his audience 
listened politely to a plan to create an American Cooperative Association. 
Capitalized at $50 million, the cooperative would establish plantations in Latin 
America and the Philippines to bust the "small coterie of British shareholders in 
plantation interests." "We must," Firestone urged his fellow industrialists, "act 
immediately."- 

But they didn't. Neither Hoover nor Firestone could raise much worry 
among America's corporate leaders. Firestone's colleagues at B. F. Goodrich, 
Goodyear, and U.S. Rubber worked closely with the British and didn't want to 
contribute to American Anglophobia, which seemed to be fueling much of the 
rubber feud. Besides , despite all their talk in support of free enterprise and open 
markets, they were generally in favor of the right to monopoly. Stuart Hotchkiss, 
president of U.S. Rubber, actually admitted to favoring Churchill's cartel. He 
thought it represented a mature rejection of a juvenile faith in the laws of free 
supply and demand and laughed at Firestone's warnings of war with Great 
Britain. It was so "unthinkable that if it should occur, there would not be much 
use in anything."- 

Henry Ford, dependent as he was on rubber, shared Firestone's concern. 
The auto industry relied as much on vulcanized rubber as on oil, using 
processed latexnot just for tires but for the hoses, valves, gaskets, and 
electrical wires needed to run the increasingly complex internal combustion 
engines, steering assemblages, and shock absorption systems, as well as for the 
machines that made the cars. The mileage of paved roads in the United States 
increased rapidly after World War I, reducing tire wear and tear. And during the 
first two decades of the twentieth century, design improvements extended the 
average life of a tire more than sixfold. Yet by 1925, the total number of tires sold 
in the United States hit an all-time high, and by the end of the decade the value 
of all rubber sold in the country surpassed a billion dollars, with more than 70 
percent of it used to manufacture tires, about fifty million of them a y eat- 
Already by 1924, Ford had considered growing his own rubber in the "muck 
lands"ofthe Florida Everglades. Rumors ofhis interest in Florida prompted 



Detroit speculators to organize the Florida and Cape Cod Realty Company to 
scoop up and subdivide large tracts of land in the town of Labelle, offering lots 
for sale at seventy-five dollars a piece. "No doubt," wrote an investigator from 
the Michigan Securities Commission, "a good many Ford employees will be 
buncoed, as they will undoubtedly buy lots on the strength of Mr. Ford's 
supposed rubber experiment." But the project didn't advance much beyond a 
fewplantings ofrubber figs and rubber vines to see if industrial amounts ofsap 
could be tapped from their trunks.- 




Rubber-tnisl busters: Herbert Hoover Henry Fotzl Thomas Edison, Harvey blteslone. 



So through the course of lunch Ford listened to Firestone's harangue. He 
had heard it before, including Firestone's prophecy that the British would 
increase the price ofrubber to an astonishing $1.20 a pound, even though at 
that moment it had floated down to about twenty cents . "Well, you know what 



to do about that," he finally shouted. "Grow your own rubber! - 

Ford liked Firestone and considered him not just an industry colleague but a 
friend. They had met in Detroit in 1895, when Ford walked into the Columbus 
Buggy Works, where Firestone worked as a sales agent, and ordered a set of 
sturdy carriage tires that wouldn't burst under his just built 500-pound gas- 
propelled automobile. Five years later, Harvey founded the Firestone Tire and 
Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, and over the next two decades he worked in 
close partnership with Ford to develop tire technology — a detachable rim, 
diagonal nonskid thread patterns that allowed increased speeds, and a low- 
pressure balloon tire that dramatically increased mileage per gallon, thus 
lowering the cost of owning a car — that complemented Ford's goal of delivering 
a cheap, well-built car to the masses .- 

But Ford was not an association man. Unlike northeastern corporate elites 
on the model of Hotchkiss, Ford, who grew up on a Dearborn farm, disliked 
collective action, hi June 1926, despite a personal plea from General Motors ' 
chairman, John Raskob, he refused to attend a meeting of Detroit's major car 
company executives called to figure out how to bypass antitrust legislation 
prohibiting the auto industry from importing mbber collectively. Raskob was an 
ally of Pierre du Pont, another GM director, and Ford had long felt persecuted 
by the patrician du Ponts. He did show up at Firestone's Washington conclave 
and funded a few joint projects with the tire makerto explore the possibility of 
growing rubber in Nicaragua. And the two men underwrote Thomas Edison's 
slow-going efforts to develop what Edison had taken to calling "war mbber" 
— that is, synthetic or organic alternatives to mbber, made frommilkweed maybe 
orgoldenrod. But he did nothing to help his friend realize his mbber 
association. "Mr. Ford," remarked his longtime personal secretary, Ernest 
Liebold, "wouldn't consider a thing like joining an organization of mbber 
producers. ... He never wanted to ally himself with anybody else in connection 
with any specific activities."- 

When the lunch was over, Ford held liebold back out of earshot. "Find 
out," he whispered to his bespectacled aide, "where is the best place to grow 
rubber."-^ 

Liebold threwhimself into the task. He read everything he could on mbber, 
including reports supplied by the Department ofAgriculture and Hoover's 
commercial attaches stationed in Brazil. He also took a crash course in African 
history and fairly quickly concluded that Liberia, where Firestone, unable to 
rouse interest in his mbber collective, would soon establish a plantation, was 
too unstable to suit Ford's interest. Latex, thought Liebold, the American-bom 
son of German Lutheran parents, should be cultivated "where the people 



themselves have reached a higher state of civilization." Ford's secretary 
decided that this ruled out Liberia, a country "composed entirely of Negroes 
whose mentality and intellectual possibilities are quite low." 

"Rubber should be grown where it originated," Liebold concluded. And that 
meant the Amazon. 

THE SOUTHERN HALF of the Amazon basin, running from the Atlantic 
mouth of the river through Brazil and into Ecuador, Bolivia, and Pern, is home to 
Hevea brasiliensis, the species of rubber tree that provides the most elastic and 
purest latex From the early eighteenth century to the end of the nineteenth, the 
Brazilian Amazon supplied nearly all of the world's rubber, demand for which 
steadily increased as the Industrial Revolution in the United States and Europe 
took off. At the height of the rubber boom, in the second half of the nineteenth 
century, Amazonian latex made up 40 percent of Brazil's total exports and 
supplied most of the rubber used for gaskets, valves, belts, wire insulation, 
carriage, bicycle, and automobile tires, boots, shoes, raincoats, condoms, and 
elastic garters. Latex lords grew magnificently wealthy, building opulent palatial 
homes and gilded jungle cities. With their BeauxArts palaces, neoclassical 
municipal buildings, electric trams, wide Parisian boulevards, and French 
restaurants, the cities of Manaus, located about nine hundred miles up the 
Amazon River, and Belem, the region's principal Atlantic port, competed for the 
title of "tropical Paris.' — 

Manaus is famous for its hulking Amazonas Theater, an opera house built of 
Italian marble and surrounded by roads made of rubber so the carriage clatter of 
late arrivals wouldn't interrupt the voices of Europe's best tenors and sopranos. 
Finished in 1896, it reportedly cost more than two million dollars to construct. 
Money flowed freely during the boom, and Manaus 's betterclasses imported 
whatever they could at whatever price. American explorers found that they 
could sell their used khakis for five times what they paid for them at home, once 
they grew tired of parading around the city in their jungle gear.j^ With more 
movie theaters than Rio and more playhouses than Lisbon, Manaus was the 
second city in all of Brazil to be lighted by electricity, and visitors who came 
upon it from the river at night during the last years of the nineteenth century 
marveled at its brilliance in the midst of darkness, "pulsating with the feverish 
throb of the world." But not just light made Manaus and Belem, also electrified 
early, modem. Their many dark spaces provided venues forquintessentially 
urban pleasures. Roger Casement, Britain's consul in Rio, who later would 
become famous for his anti-imperialist and antislavery activities, wrote in his 
diary in 1911 about cruising Manaus 's docks, picking up young men for 
anonymous sex Belem, for its part, wrote a Los Angeles limes correspondent in 
1899, had an "amount of vice" that would shock the "reformers of New York," 



most of which could be found in its many cafes and cabarets, as well as its best 
brothel, the High Life Hotel, which is "devoted to the life of the lowest order ' 
and which Brazilians pronounced, according to the journalist, as "Higgy liffey. 
»I2 




A contemporary view of the opera house in Ahnans, the hopical Paris . 



From start to finish, the production of rubber that made such affluence 
possible represented an extreme contrast to the industrial method pioneered by 
Henry Ford in Michigan. Hevea brasiliensis can grow as high as a hundred feet, 
standing straight with an average girth, at breast height, of about one meter in 
diameter. It's an old species, and during its millennia-long history there likewise 
evolved an army of insects and fungi that feed off its leaves, as well as 
mammals that eat its seeds. In its native habitats of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and 
Ecuador, it best grows wild, just a few trees per acre, far enough apart to keep 
bugs and blight at bay; would-be planters soon learned that the cultivation of 
large numbers of rubber trees in close proximity greatly increased the 
population of rubber's predators. The extraction and processing of latex, 
therefore, was based not on developing large plantations or investing in 
infrastructure but rather on a cumbersome and often violent system of peonage, 
in which tappers were compelled to spread out through the jungle and collect 
sap. 

Tappers, known as serirtgueims, lived scattered along the river, sometimes 



with their families but often alone, with their huts located at the head of one or 
two looped rubber trails that ran a few miles, connecting between a hundred and 
two hundred trees. In the morning, starting before sunrise, when the latex 
flowed freest through the thin vessels that run up the tree's bark, the tapper 
would make his first round, slashing each Hevea with diagonal cuts and then 
placing tin cans or cups to catch the falling sap. After lunch, and a nap to 
escape the worst of the heat, the setingueiw made a second round to collect 
the latex Back at his hut, he smoked it on a spit over an earthenware oven fired 
by dampened palmnuts, which produced a toxic smoke that took its toll on 
tapper lungs, until it fonned a black ball of rubber, weighing between seventy 
and ninety pounds. He then brought the ball to a trading post, handing it over 
to a merchant either as rent for the trails or to pay off goods purchased on 
credit. The rubber then made its way downriver to Belem's receivers and export 
houses. The excruciatingly unhurried drip, drip, drip of the sap into a battered 
cup, latched onto the tree with a piece of rope or leather, was about as far 
removed from the synchronized speed of Henry Ford's assembly line as one 
could imagine. Back in Michigan, Ford was obsessed with rooting out "slack" 
fromnot just the workday but the work year — trying to find ways to combine 
agricultural and industrial seasonal labor that maximized the efficiency of both. 
But along the Amazon, seringueiws often spent the "grey and sad" months of 
the rainy season, when latexran too slow to tap, "in his hammock without any 
profitable occupation," accumulating more debt that they would never work off. 
Their thatched huts were often perched on poles, and as the water rose around 
them they passed the rainy days in isolation, as one traveler described, alone 
with "dogs, fowls, and a host of insects, all unable to move far owing to the 
water that surrounds them"— 



Two tappers smoking latex under a thatched lean-to. 

It was a system that produced enormous riches when Brazil had a monopoly 
on the world's rubber trade and therefore largely set the global market price. But 
the wealth it created was fleeting and unsustainable. The tapping system itself 
could quickly deplete man and tree. As the seasons passed, cuts on the bark 
would scab overto be bled again, successively yielding less and less latex. 
With care, Hevea can produce for up to three decades, starting in its fifth or 
sixth year of growth, but underpressure to deliver more latex, seringueiros cut 
too often, too deep, causing stunted growth and early exhaustion. And profit 
was generated by what was essentially an elaborate pyramid scheme: at the 
apex were foreign commercial and financial houses; in the middle stood Brazilian 
merchants, traders, and a few exporters; and the whole thing rested on the 
backs of indebted tappers, who, as one critic put it, received goods on credit 
charged at fifty but in reality worth ten, in exchange for latexthat the local 
merchant assessed at ten but that was actually worth fifty. As another writer 
noted, the "potentates of the forest have no credit beyond that on their books 
— against peons who never pay (unless with their lives)." Euclides da Cunha, 
one of the Amazon's great chroniclers, described the trade as the "most criminal 
employment organization ever spawned by unbridled selfishness."— 

The first generation of early-nineteenth -century -boom rubber tappers came 
from the Amazon's native population. Things were bad for many indigenous 



communities prior to the rubber trade; slave raiding had already devastated 
many groups. "Every manner of persuasion," one anthropologist obseived, 
"from torture to degeneration by cachaca" — a cheap rum distilled from sugar 
cane juice — was used to make natives collect wild jungle products. Prior to the 
expansion of the latex economy, these included nuts, feathers, snake skins, 
dyes, fibers, pelts, timber, spices, fruit, and medicinal herbs and barks, most 
notably from the cinchona tree, found in the higher reaches of the upper 
Amazon, which produced the antimalarial alkaloid quinine, indispensable in 
hastening the spread of European colonialism in Asia and Africa.— 

But the rubber trade was by far more extensive, and thus more disruptive, 
than anything that had come before it, organizing under its regime the whole of 
the Amazon wherever Hevea was found. The Apiaca, for instance, were just one 
of many groups practically wiped out as a distinct tribal society, their men 
pressed into service either as tappers or to paddle or pole trading boats, and 
their women as servants or concubines. After native sources of laborwere 
exhausted, migrants, mostly fromBrazil's drought-prone northeast, made up 
subsequent generations of tappers. They arrived at Manaus and Belemby the 
boatful, withered, sunken-faced, and already bonded to pay for their transport. 
Between 1800 and 1900, the lower Amazon's population increased tenfold, with 
desperately poor, eternally indebted families living in small, isolated clusters of 
huts along the river's many waterways or in the sprawling shantytowns that 
spread out behind Manaus and Belem's Belle Epoque facade.— 

But by 1925, when Ford and Firestone were thinking of getting into the 
rubber business, this boomhad long turned to bust, largely because ofthe 
actions of another Henry, who arrived in the Amazon over half a century earlier 
to commit what observers today call "bio-piracy," which would eventually 
unravel Brazil's latexmonopoly. 

Henry Wickhamwas a prime example ofthe kind of imperial rogue 
chronicled by Rudyard Kipling. Only Wickham didn't travel east to make a name 
for himself in Britain's formal colonies; instead he went west to Latin America, 
where London in the late nineteenth century was extending its commercial and 
financial reach. He landed first in Nicaragua, where he tried to turn a profit 
exporting colorful bird plumage back to his mother's London millinery shop, 
located on a small street just off what is now Piccadilly Circus, He was a bad 
shot, though, and soon decided to better his luck in Brazil.— 

In 1871, Wickham and his wife settled in Santarem, where the Tapajos River 
flows into the Amazon. Attempting to establish himself as a rubber expert, he 
quickly fell into destitution, surviving only thanks to the kindness of a 
community of U.S. Confederate exiles who, moved by, as one ofthe Southern 



expatriates put it, Wickham's "aristocratic appearance" and "lonesome, 
melancholy aspect," took the couple in. A failure at most everything in life, 
Wickham enjoyed one reported success, the illegal spiriting of seventy 
thousand Amazonian seeds, gathered from a site not far from where Fordlandia 
would be founded, out of Brazil in 1876. These he turned over to London's 
Royal Botanic Gardens, where they were nurtured into the seedlings used to 
develop Asia's latexcompetition. Actually, Wickham's real success was in 
gaining fame for stealing the seeds, for historians of rubber have subsequently 
questioned key aspects of his derring-do story. Whatever the case, Queen 
Victoria knighted Wickham, securing his place in history as a British imperial 
hero and a Brazilian imperialist villain, and the Amazon began its long descent 
into economic stupor.— 

The seeds Wickham collected and shipped to London provided the genetic 
stock of all subsequent rubber plantations in the British, French, and Dutch 
colonies. Hevea was able to grow closer together in Asia, and later Africa, 
because the insects and fungi that feed off rubber didn't exist in that part of the 
world. And when the trees began to run sufficient amounts of cheap latexto 
meet the world's demand, Brazil's rubber pyramid came toppling down. No 
matter how exploited the Amazonian tapper, the price of producing rubber in 
large estates was considerably lower than what it cost to extract it from wild 
groves. Asian plantations were close to major ports , which cut down on 
transportation expense. They used low-wage labor, often imported from China, 
and by the early twentieth century had selected and crossbred trees, leading to 
much greater sap yields. In 1912, estates in Malaya and Sumatra were producing 
8,500 tons of latex, compared with the Amazon's 38,000 tons. Two years later, 
Asia was exporting over 71,000 tons. Less than nine years later, that number 
rose to 370,000 tons. Manaus fell into fast decline, its opera house ridiculed as 
an emblem of folly, of the excess wealth and European strivings of rubber 
barons who spent their money on gold leaf, red velvet, and murals of Creek and 
Roman gods cavorting in the jungle, rather than on developing a sustainable 
economy. Belemgave way to Singapore as the world's premier rubber exporting 
port, and the Amazon languished, subject of any number of plans to restore the 
region to glory — until Ford tried to make one happen.— 

-Unlike Brazilians, who upon returning from the jungle usually immediately 
bathed, shaved, and brought a new suit of clothes, Americans, one observer 
noted, had the "irritating habit of stalking through the streets, and calling on 
the highest officials" in their "ten-gallon hats, campaign boots, and cartridge- 
belts" (Earl Parker Hanson, Journey to Manaas, New York: Reynal and 
Hitchcock, 1938, p. 292). 



CHAPTER 2 
THE COW MUST GO 

ONE OF THE BOOKS ERNEST LIEBOLD READ IN HIS DELIBERATIONS 
on where best to grow rubber was Through the Brazilian Wilderness, Theodore 
Roosevelt's account of his triumphant Amazon expedition, in which he and his 
son Kennit almost lost their lives charting the unexplored thousand-mile-long 
River of Doubt. Roosevelt made only passing reference to the contracting 
aibber economy, mostly to relate the hard-luck life of tappers. But there was one 
passage that must have caught Liebold's attention. 

In describing his journey to the headwaters of the Tapajos River, Roosevelt 
observed that the area's many fast rivers could provide nearly "unlimited motive 
force to populous manufacturing communities." Telegraph lines had to be ain, 
followed by railroads, but there were no "serious natural obstacles'" to either 
task. Once communication and transportation had been established, the "right 
kind" of settlers would arrive, followed by "enterprising businessmen of 
foresight, coolness and sagacity" willing to put the migrants to work for "an 
advantage that would be mutual." And thus would rise a "great industrial 
civilization. "- 

If anyone could make it happen — or at least if anyone was sure of his ability 
to make such a vision happen — it would be Henry Ford. When Roosevelt left 
for Brazil in late 1913, Ford was already well known as the creator of the world's 
first affordable, mass-produced automobile. But when he returned in early 1914, 
the industrialist had been catapulted to the heights of world fame, lauded as a 
"sociologist manufacturer" who didn't just attract the "right kind" of workerbut 
assembled thenifromwhole cloth. "The impression has somehow got around," 
said the Reverend Samuel Marquis, who for a time headed Ford's employee 
relations office, "that Henry Ford is in the automobile business. It isn't true. Mr. 
Ford shoots about fifteen hundred cars out of the back door of his factory 
every day just to get rid of them They are the by-products of his real business, 
which is the making of men."- 

SUCCESS CAME LATE to Ford. Bom on a Michigan farm in 1863, he was 
forty years old when he founded the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, forty-five 
when he introduced the Model T, and fifty when he put assembly line 
production into place and began to pay workers a wage high enough to let them 
buy the product they themselves made. So while he came of age during the 
early stages of the Industrial Revolution, the America he lived in for the first 
half of his life was still mostly rural, and the changes he helped set in motion 



came stunningly fast. 

Ford didn't invent the assembly line. He claimed he got the idea of having 
workers remain at one location and perform a single task from the "disassembly 
lines" found in Chicago's and Cincinnati's slaughterhouses, where butchers 
hacked off parts as pig and cow carcasses passed in front ofthemon conveyor 
hooks. Nor did he conceive the other central idea of modem mass production, 
that is, making parts as identical as possible to one another so that they would 
be interchangeable. But Ford did fuse these two ideas together as never before, 
perfecting the idea of a factory as a complex system of ever more integrated 
subassembly processes. 

Most of this innovation took place in Ford's new Highland Park plant, 
opened in 1910 and designed by the architect Albert Kahn, who prior to his 
work with Ford had been associated with the anti-mass production aits and 
crafts movement. Located a few miles north of downtown Detroit along 
Woodward Avenue, the factory was enormous. It was four stories high, 865 feet 
long, 700,000 square feet in total, holding eight thousand machines, and was 
dubbed the Crystal Palace for the tens of thousands of windowpanes that 
bathed its shop floor in radiant sunlight. Highland Park was powered not so 
much by steamordieselbut, as historian Douglas Brinkley puts it, 
management's restless search to ''save time, money, and manpower through 
further mechanization." Within eighteen months of the introduction in April 
1913 of the first assembly line to make flywheels, every major component of 
Ford's car was being produced on moving lines, including the final confection 
of the finished product. Highland Park had become a machine itself, which by 
the midteens was dedicated to making one cheap yet sturdy thing: the Model 
T.2 

The economics of Ford-style mass production were demonstrably simple. In 
1911-12, it took just under seven thousand Ford workers to make 78,440 Model 
Ts. The following year, both production and the workforce more than doubled. 
Then in 1913-14, with the introduction of the assembly line and other 
innovations , the number of cars the factory produced doubled yet again, while 
the labor force decreased from 14,336 to 12,880 men. At the same time, the cost 
of manufacturing a Model T continued to decline, which allowed for a reduction 
in price, which increased demand, which generated more profit, which could be 
poured back into the factory to synchronize and mechanize production even 
further, to start the whole process over again. By 1921, Ford had captured more 
than 50 percent of the American car market, producing more than two million 



Model Ts a year at a production cost 60 percent cheaper than a decade earlier.- 
In 1914, the British journalist Julian Street visited Detroit and described the 

raw energy of Ford's Highland Park plant: 

The whole room, with its interminable aisles, its whirling shafts and 
wheels, its forest of roof-supporting posts and flapping, flying, leather 
belting, its endless rows of writhing machinery, its shrieking, hammering, 
and clatter, its smell of oil, its autumn haze of smoke, its savage-looking 
foreign population- — to my mind it expressed but one thing and that was 
delirium . . . Fancy a jungle of wheels and belts and weird iron forms 
— of men, machinery and movement — add to it every kind of sound you 
can imagine: the sound of a million squirrels chirking, a million monkeys 
quarreling, a million lions roaring, a million pigs dying, a million 
elephants smashing through a forest of sheet iron, a million boys 
whistling on their fingers, a million others coughing with the whooping 
cough, a million sinners groaning as they are dragged to hell — imagine 
all of this happening at the very edge of Niagara Falls, with the 
everlasting roar of the cataract as a perpetual background, and you may 
acquire a vague conception of that place.- 



Highland Porks crankshaft assembly mom, 1915. 

For Street, the jungle trope was not to suggest, as it did for Upton Sinclair in 
his novel about the Chicago meatpacking industry, the anarchic brutality of 
capitalism, which drains the life out of workers and then casts them off to wither 
away like so many dead leaves. On the contrary, the British journalist saw the 
assembly line method as the taming of the industrial jungle, a "relentless 
system" yielding "terrible efficiency." "Like a river and its tributaries," Ford's 
integrated assembly lines flowed inexorably to their final destination: a finished 
Model T.£ 

"PEOPLE DONT STAYput," Ford once said to explain why communism 
would never work in the Soviet Union. But neither did they remain still during 
the first decades of industrial capitalism At the Ford factory, worker 
absenteeismaveraged 10 percent a day between 1912 and 1913, and the yearly 
turnover rate of 380 percent was crippling the factory's production capacity. 
Ford's emphasis on synchronization and mechanization only aggravated the 



already high labor turnover. For the majority of Ford's ever growing workforce, 
the slightly better-than-average pay the company offered was not sufficient 
incentive to be turned into repeating machines/ 

The second stage of Ford's revolution, then, had to do with human 
relations, with making people stay put. Ford came to believe that the key to 
creating loyal, more efficient workers was to help them find fulfillment, as he 
understood it, outside the factory. 

In early 1914, Ford made an announcement that sent seismic shocks across 
the globe. Henceforth, he proclaimed, the Ford Motor Company would pay an 
incentive wage of five dollars for an eight-hour day, nearly double the average 
industrial standard. The Wall Street Journal charged Henry Ford with class 
treason, with "'economic blunders if not crimes." Yet his absentee and turnover 
rate plummeted and Ford was jolted into the ranks of the world's most admired 
men, "an international symbol of the new industrialization."- 

But high wages alone were not enough to ensure either factory -floor 
efficiency or individual responsibility. Abetter salary could just lead to quicker 
dissipation through gambling, drinking, and whoring. There was no shortage of 
temptations in iniquitous Detroit. There were more brothels in the city than 
churches, and workers often lived crowded in fetid slums, in flophouses that 
fronted for gambling halls, bars, and opium dens. So Ford conditioned his Five 
Dollar Day plan with the obligation that workers live a wholesome life.— 

And to make sure they did, the carmaker dispatched inspectors fromhis 
Sociological Department to probe into the most intimate comers of Ford 
workers 'lives, including their sex lives. Denounced as a system of paternal 
surveillance as often as it was lauded as a program of civic reform, by 1919 the 
Sociological Department employed hundreds of agents who spread out over 
Dearborn and Detroit asking questions, taking notes, and writing up personnel 
reports . They wanted to know if workers had ins urance and how they s pent 
their money and free time. Did they have a bank account? How much debt did 
they carry? How many times were they manied? Did they send money home to 
the old country? Sociological men came around not just once but two, three, or 
four times interviewing family members, friends, and landlords to make sure 
previous reports of probity were accurate. They of course discouraged 
drinking, smoking, and gambling and encouraged saving, clean living habits, 
keeping flies off food, maintaining an orderly house, backyard, and front porch, 
and sleeping in beds. They also frowned on the taking in of boarders since, 
"next to liquor, dissension in the home is due to people other than the family 



being there."— 

The majority ofthe Ford Motor Company's workforce were immigrants, from 
Poland, Russia, Italy, the disintegrating A us tro -Hungarian and Ottoman 
empires, the Middle East, Japan, and Mexico. In addition to attracting foreign- 
bom workers, Ford's Five Dollar Day wage sparked a march of African 
Americans from the South who heard, correctly, that Ford paid equal wages to 
all male employees, regardless of skin color. The car industry's absolute need 
for labor was insatiable in the 1920s and mitigated racism, though African 
Americans were generally assigned the hardest jobs and the ones with the least 
potential for advancement. And though ecumenical in his hiring practices , Ford 
still charged his Sociological Department with Americanizing immigrants, 
conditioning ongoing employment on their attending English and civic classes. 
These courses were intentionally mixed by race and country so as to "impress 
upon these men that they are, or should be, Americans, and that former racial, 
national, and linguistic differences are to be forgotten." Commencement from 
the Ford school had the graduating workers, regaled in their native dress, 
singing their national songs and dancing their folk dances and climbing up a 
ladder to enter a large papier-mache "melting pot." On the stage's backdrop was 
painted an immigrant steamship, and as Ford teachers stirred the pot with long 
ladles the new amalgamated Americans emerged in "derby hats, coats, pants, 
vests, sthTcollars, polka-dot ties," singing "The Star-Spangled Banner."— 

Consider the case ofMustafa, an immigrant who before taking ajob with the 
Ford Motor Company had plowed the fields with his father in Turkey. When he 
first came to Detroit, he lived in a squalid downtown boardinghouse. Like the 
rest of his "countrymen," he washed his "hands and feet five times a day, as 
part of their religion before praying" — the hygiene of which impressed the 
sociological inspector less than the time it wasted troubled Mm (tn 1914, Ford 
had fired nine hundred CvthodoxChristians for missing a workday to celebrate 
Christmas in January). But after passing through Ford's Americanization 
programs and moving to "a better locality," Mustafa "put aside his national red 
fez and praying, no baggy trousers anymore. He dresses like an American 
gentleman, attends the Ford English school and has banked in the past year 
over $1,000.00." "Let my only son be sacrificed for my boss," the inspector 
claimed Mustafa said in gratitude for having had his life turned around. "May 
Allah send my boss Kismet."— 

As Ford biographer Robert Lacey put it, the "Five Dollar Day raised the pain 
threshold of capitalism" But beyond an incentive to make workers stay put, it 



also became a model for how to respond to another cits is that plagued 
industrialism The mechanized factory production that took flight during 
America's Gilded Age had promised equality and human progress but in reality 
delivered deepening polarization and misery, particularly in sprawling industrial 
cities like Detroit. Ford, advised by farsighted company executives such as 
James Couzens and John Lee, understood that high wages and decent benefits 
would do more than create a dependable and thus more productive workforce; 
they would also stabilize and stimulate demand for industrial products by 
turning workers into consumers. 

To this end, the Sociological Department promoted spending. Yet not just 
any kind of spending. Employees were not to waste their money on what Ford 
dismissed as "trumpery and trinkets," goods made ''only to be sold, and bought 
only to be owned, 1 " which peifonned "no real service to the world and are at last 
mere rubbish as they were at first mere waste." Ford's inspectors rather 
encouraged workers to purchase vacuum cleaners, washing machines, houses, 
and, of course, Model Ts .— 

At least for some and at least for a time, the Ford Motor Company, then, 
managed to redeem capitalism's earlier promise of abundance. It created what 
was understood to be a closed, self-regulating circuit that both increased 
production and expanded consumption, whereby workers were able to purchase 
the products that they themselves made. "High wages," said Ford, "to create 
large markets."— 

THE PUBLICITYGAINED from both his Five Dollar Day and Sociological 
Department combined with the popularity of the Model T allowed Ford to 
cultivate his image as a philosopher. Ford's almost preternatural mechanical 
talent had been evident since he was a boy. Yet now in the middle of his life he 
discovered a new skill. The carmaker turned out, as one reporter put it, to be an 
"unrelenting, unremitting" master self-publicist who, with the help of a loyal, 
close-knit group of handlers and hired writers, succeeded in spinning his social 
awkwardness into wise enigma. Through the 1920s, he enjoyed more press 
coverage than any other American except President Calvin Coolidge.— 

Two contradictory threads ran through the fabric of Ford's homespun. One 
was a "Transcendentalists' belief in man's perfectibility." Ford was a pacifist, 
suffragist, and death penalty opponent who believed that he had "invented the 
modem age." "We don't want tradition," he said, "we want to live in the 
present, and the only history worth a tinker's damn is the history we make 
today." Not only did he take credit for ending society's reliance on the horse 



but, repelled by his own boyhood memories of farmwork, he wanted to do away 
with all barnyard animals . "The cow must go," he declared. In place of milk, 
Ford pushed soy milk. Instead of sheep's wool, he suggested linen made from 

hi the other direction ran nostalgia for the world he helped end, one rooted 
in his airal background. Aphorisms that stressed "self-reliance and rugged 
individualism''' as solutions to social ills eventually evolved into a darker 
critique of a world that he played a large role in creating, one in which social 
relations were growing ever more complex, ever more in flux, and ever more 
shaped by forces beyond face-to-face contact. The "city" became a common 
object of his criticism, as did "Wall Street financers" and, increasingly starting 
in the 1920s, "the Jew."i2 

'T don't like the city, it pins me in," he said, "I want to breathe. I want to get 
out."-^ 

For the rest of his life. Ford — who as a boy walked for a day fromhis 
Dearborn family farm to lose himself in the anonymous pleasures of urban 
Detroit yet as a man came to despise the city as degenerate — bounced back and 
forth between these poles. He was a suffragist who didn't offer women the same 
five-do llar-a-day wage he did men. He passionately advocated placing US 
sovereignty underthe authority of the League ofNations and talked about the 
need to establish a "world government" well into the 1940s, but then 
condemned Jews for their "internationalism" He called for the nationalization of 
the railroads and telegraph and telephone service, yet he hated Franklin Delano 
Roosevelt and refused to abide by New Deal regulation. He exalted the dignity 
of the worker and fashioned himself a scourge of the "capitalist" but was 
violently opposed to unionism And he was a radical pacifist who once 
conceded that one last great war might be needed to finally bring about world 
disannament. At the vanguard of the industrial and consumer revolution 
responsible for many of the vices he condemned, Ford tried to transcend this 
dissonance with a self-regard bordering on the Promethean. He reveled in 
publicity that presented him as humanity's savior, once saying that if sent into 
an alley blindfolded he would lay his "hands by chance on the most shiftless 
and worthless fellow in the crowd" and "make a man out of him."— 

It was, after all, an age of competitive redemptions. Socialist: the radical 
journalist John Reed in his Ten Days That Shook the World described the 1917 
Russian Revolution as building an earthly "kingdommore bright than any 
heaven had to offer." Russians, he said, would no longer need priests to "pray 



them into heaven." Nationalist: T. E Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of 
Arabia, in an account of his role in helping to spark the 1922 Arab revolt against 
the Ottoman empire, wrote that the rebellion was fought in the name of a "new 
heaven and a new earth." Fundamentalist: the Reverend Billy Sunday held 
40,000-strong revival meetings in the heart of Detroit in the years after the 
inauguration of the Five Dollar Day, vying with Ford for the pres s 's attention. 
And capitalist: Ford too promised to deliver not just a cheap car to the 
"multitude" but a "new world, a new heaven, and a new earth."— 



CHAPTER 3 

ABSOLUTE AMERICANISMS 

THE GOLDEN AGE OF FORD ARRIVED IN EARLY 1914, WITH THE 
thunderclap promise of the Five Dollar Day, heralding industrial peace and 
prosperity. The rest of the 1910s and most of the 1920s were a period of 
di22ying economic triumph for Ford. Having bought all minority shares in Ford 
Motor Company, with no dividends to pay, partners to consult, or banks to 
report to, Ford moved forward with the construction of a new factory complex, 
which he built along the Rouge River, in the county of Dearborn, near where he 
was bom. When it was finished, the River Rouge would be the largest, most 
synchronized industrial plant in the world: sixteen million square feet of floor 
space, ninety-three buildings, close to a hundred thousand workers, a dredged 
deepwater port, and the world's largest steel foundry. Ford barges, trucks, and 
freight trains brought silica and limestone, coal and iron ore, wood and coal, 
brass, bronze, copper, and aluminum from Ford forests and mines in Michigan, 
Kentucky, and West Mrginia to the Rouge's gates and piers, and everything 
was organized to achieve maximum efficiency in receiving the material and 
getting it to the complex's power plants, blast ovens, furnaces, mills, rollers, 
forges, saws, and presses, to be transformed into electricity, steel, glass, 
cement, and lumber. Where other factories processed raw materials once, Ford 
had the Rouge designed to allow for their intensive reuse. Rather than just burn 
coal for electricity and heat, coke ovens first broke down the rock into a high- 
burning compound that could be used in foundries to melt minerals to make 
castings. Only then was coke gas piped to the powerhouse to generate 
electricity. Wood chips were put to making cardboard, coal dust was swept off 
the floor and used to produce cement, metal scraps were tossed in the blast 
furnaces, and ammonium sulfate, another byproduct of the coking process, was 
sold as fertilizer. Refined raw materials then moved through a series of cranes, 
railcars, and crisscrossed covered conveyor belts to their final destination, the 
assembly plant — laid out on one floor to reduce unnecessary climbing. The 
Rouge was consecrated a "cathedral of industry," and Ford, one of the richest 
and most celebrated men in history, ordained the high priest of the modern 
age.i 

But Ford's optimistic creed was tested by the outbreak of World War I, 



which had taken over a million lives by the end of 1914 and would eventually 
claim sixteen times as many. Historians have traced Ford's distaste for militarism 
to his mother, Mary Litogot Ford, who, having given birth to Henry in the 
middle of the Civil War, nurtured in her son a hatred of all things martial. But it's 
not hard to imagine Ford reading about European factories being used to mass 
manufacture ever bigger guns , larger-caliber ammunition, more lethal bombs , 
airplanes, submarines, mustard gas, and cars outfitted for battle and thinking 
that the hope of the Industrial Revolution had been turned inside out, that 
rather than deliver, as he kept saying it would, an easier, more satisfied life, it 
nowmade death possible on a scale heretofore unimaginable. The battle of 
\erdun alone consumed close to forty million artillery shells and over 300,000 
lives. Ahalf million died at the Somme, more than twice as many battle deaths as 
the entire Civil War. 

Ford's failure to keep the United States out of World War I — a task he 
pledged to devote his entire fortune to — initiated a series of political defeats 
and compromises that, by the time he considered moving into the Amazon, left 
him without any major success apart from the considerable ones that bore his 
narre: his cars, tractors, planes, factories, and method of production. The Great 
War forced Ford to revise his international utopianism, undermining his faith 
that the rational ordering of industrial capitalismand human relations could 
bring about a better, harmonious world, free of battles and borders. Ford flailed, 
blaming one group after another for society's ills. He continued to express an 
unbounded faith in the ability of technology to create human happiness, yet his 
proscriptions for reform became idiosyncratic and increasingly nativist. It is at 
this intersection of economic intoxication and political exhaustion that the idea 
of Fordlandia being something more than just a rubber plantation first took root. 

FORD WENT PUBLIC with his opposition not just to World War I, or to war 
in general but to all preparation for war, which he said could only lead to war, in 
April 1915. "I am opposed to war in every sense of the word," he said; soldiers 
should have the word murdemr embroidered on their uniforms . In the following 
months Ford would issue a streamof equally emphatic statements, thrusting 
himself into the position of the world's most famous pacifist, dedicated to both 
ending the European conflict and keeping the United States out of it. "I don't 
believe in boundaries," Ford told John Reed. "I think nations are silly and flags 



are silly too." He said he planned to pull down the US flag fromhis factory and 
"hoist in its place the Flag of All Nations which is being designed in my office 
right now. - 

Jane Addams, another prominent peace activist, thought such 
pronouncements flamboyant. Yet they weren't at odds with much of mainstream 
thought of the time. Many thought, on the eve of World War I, that pacifism 
was on the verge of triumph. A strong antiwar sentiment had emerged in all the 
world's major religions, including in the growing Christian evangelical 
movement in the United States, making common cause with politicians in 
Europe, the United States, and Latin America to reorient the purpose of 
diplomacy away frommilitarismand dominance toward the resolution of conflict 
and the maintenance of peace. A respectable number of the world's most 
prominent intellectuals, businessmen, politicians, and clergy could seriously 
argue that a world of perpetual peace, governed by the dispassionate rule of 
law, was within reach. 

Ford reflected this debut-de-siecle optimismbut parted company with those 
who saw progress as being driven by politicians and governments. "History is 
more or less bunk," Ford once famously said, by which he meant the kind of 
great-man or great-nation history that made it into textbooks. It was not just the 
"bankers, munitions makers, Kings and their henchmen" who pushed people 
into war, Ford thought, but "school books" that glorified battles as engines of 
historical movement. Ford was not averse to American expansion. He in fact had 
a pronounced belief in his and the United States 'ability to rejuvenate the world. 
Just not at the point of bayonets. "If we could put the Mexican peon to work," 
Ford said in reference to the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution, which broke out 
in 1910, "treating him fairly and showing him the advantage of treating his 
employers fairly, the Mexican problem would disappear. There would be no more 
talk of a revolution. Mlla would become a foreman, if he had brains. Carranza 
[another Mexican revolutionary] might be trained to be a good time-keeper."- 

Ford's vision of a world made whole and happy by trade and industry is 
captured in his favorite poem, Lord Alfred Tennyson's "Locks ley Hall": 
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see, 
Saw the Ms ion of the world, and all the wonder that would be; 
Sawthe heavens fill with commerce, argosies ofmagic sails, 



Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales; 
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew 
Fromthe nations ' airy navies grappling in the central blue; 
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm, 
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm; 
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd 
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world. 
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe, 
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law- 
It was technology, production, and commerce that made history, and it 
would be not gunboats or marines that would tame the world but his car. "In 
Mexico villages fight one another," Ford said, but "if we could give every man 
in those villages an automobile, let him travel fromhis home town to the other 
town, and permit himto find out that his neighbors at heart were his friends, 
rather than his enemies , Mexico would be pacified for all time." And to back up 
his point, he announced that any employee who left his job to join General John 
Pershing's expedition to capture the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Mlla would 
not find work waiting forhimon his return.- 

THE OUTBREAK OF war in Europe in August 1914 shattered the illusion 
that the battle flags of the world would soon be furled. Rather than dousing the 
dream, however, the European conflict provoked ever more desperate efforts to 
realize it, like Henry Ford's "peace ship." 

Ford had seized on the notion of chartering an ocean liner to float a 
"people's delegation" to Europe to negotiate an end to the conflict in November 
1915, after an associate raised the idea in passing, and he threw himself into the 
endeavor with the same impetuous energy he brought to his other, more 
mechanical passions. "1 will do everything in my power to prevent murderous, 
wasteful war in America and in the whole world," he said, committing to stay in 
Europe as long as it took to bring peace to the continent. "I will devote my life 
to fight this spirit of militarism" Working closely with members of the world 
peace movement, Ford arranged to rent the Scandinavian-American Line's 
Oscar II and set up a command center in New York's Biltmore Hotel, sending out 
a barrage of invitations to the best names in American politics, society, and 
industry to join his "international peace pilgrimage." "We're going to try to get 



the boys out of the trenches before Christmas," was the slogan Ford adopted 
for the campaign, having come to appreciate the publicity value of a succinct, 
well-turned phrase.- 

Ford's flair for bombast was more than matched by the theatricality of the 
fifteen thousand people who crammed a Hoboken pier to send off his "peace 
ark." A band played "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Onward, Christian 
Soldiers," as the crew of the Oscar tried to sort out who was legitimately part of 
the Ford entourage and who was trying to stow away. Most of the country's 
prominent liberal internationalists, intellectuals, and religious leaders, like 
William Jennings Bryan, William Howard Taft, and Louis Brandeis respectfully 
declined the industrialist's invitation to join his odyssey. "My heart is with 
you," apologi2ed Helen Keller for not being able to make the trip. Jane Addams 
did accept but fell ill and couldn't sail. That left Ford with an odd and volatile 
assortment of lesser-known dissenters, vegetarians, socialists, pacifists, and 
suffragists as companions. That the voyagers seemed more at home under a 
carnival tent than in the halls of diplomacy was underscored by the arrival of a 
gift of two caged squirrels — "to go with the nuts," some wag said. Ford himself, 
swaddled in a full-length overcoat, stood on the ship's deck in the winter wind 
with beatific pink cheeks and a frozen smile, bowing over and over again to well- 
wishers. One reporter asked him what his supporters should do while he was 
away. "Tell the people to cry peace," he said, and "fight preparedness ." Among 
those gathered on the dock was Mr. Zero, the street-performance name of 
antihunger activist Urbain Ledoux, who would later be known for staging "slave 
auctions" of unemployed workers in the Boston Common. When he tried to do 
the same in New York's Bryant Park, cops rioted and beat the assembled crowd 
with billy clubs, provoking a nightlong melee in which thousands of the jobless 
marched through Broadway's theater district chanting "Hurrah for the an-ny of 
the unemployed!" and demanding to know "When do we eat?" As the Oscar 
pulled away from the dock and the band struck up "I Didn't Raise My Son to Be 
a Soldier," Mr. Zero leapt into the cold Hudson waters. Fished out of the bay, he 
told reporters that he was "swimming to reach public opinion."- 

The mission proved a bust. In the middle of the voyage, President Woodrow 
Wilson announced that he would call on Congress to increase the size of the 
standing army, a policy shift that split the delegates into competing factions, 



between those who felt they needed to call off the mission in deference to 
Wilson and those who insisted on pressing forward. Ford joined the militants 
but, laid low by a flu and realizing that he was in over his head, sequestered 
himself in his cabin until the Oscar arrived in -12° Oslo on December 18. He 
returned to the United States nearly immediately, leaving his fellow delegates to 
make their futile "people's intervention" on their own. "Guess 1 had better go 
horns to mother" he told them, meaning his wife, Gara. "You've got this thing 
started now and can get along without me." 

The voyage of the Oscar revealed the unwillingness of many of America's 
most influential intellectuals and politicians, despite their nominal commitment 
to peace, to challenge a president whom they saw as a fellow internationalist, 
first when Woodrow Wilson promised to use his office to press for arbitration in 
Europe and then when he began his military buildup. But it also exposed Ford's 
vision of Americanism to a powerful backlash, led by Theodore Roosevelt. 

WHEN THEODORE ROOSEVELT returned from the Amazon in May 1914, he 
was thinned by parasites and fever. During the trip, an infection had eaten at his 
flesh and despair had brought himto the edge of suicide. He had lost three men 
to murder and the river and had almost lost his son Kermit. Yet Roosevelt, who 
served as president from 1901 to 1909, recovered enough to lecture on his 
adventures, and once he convinced skeptics that he had discovered a new river 
— now flowing under the name "Roosevelt" — he began again to concern 
himself with social issues, including the new Five Dollar Day plan Ford had put 
in place while he was away. He wrote to Ford to suggest they have lunch or 
dinner the next time Ford was in New York. Roosevelt wanted to know a "great 
many things" about his factory system — not just how Ford was handling his 
"workmen fromthe purely industrial and social side" but also his "method of 
dealing with the immigrant workingmen."- 

Both men contributed, in their own way, to the triumph of the "Progressive 
Era" over the abuses of the barons and trusts that emerged fromAmerica's first 
period of industrial expansion. They shared a number of friends, including 
Thomas Edison and the naturalist John Burroughs, and Roosevelt, the first 
president to ride in a car, felt "not merely friendliness" toward Ford "but in many 
respects a very genuine admiration." But the meeting did not take place, for as 
Ford became the voice of a frustrated pacifism, Roosevelt's admiration soured 



into scorn and "cutting sarcasm." "Mr. Ford's visit abroad," he said of the 
peace ship, "will not be mischievous only because it is ridiculous. "- 

Roosevelt and Ford represented distinct traditions of Americanism, 
especially with respect to expansion beyond America's borders. Where Ford 
believed the countiy should move forward to the steady humof a well- 
organized factory, Roosevelt thought that the nation should march outward to 
the beat of a military bass drum The Rough Rider urged men to live at the 
extremes, and he hailed the hard, besieged life of the frontier — whether in the 
Dakota badlands or in a tropical jungle — as essential in both building character 
and defining morality. "The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with 
savages," he wrote in The Winning of the West, even though he admitted that 
such a war was "apt to be also the most terrible and inhumane." His distaste for 
the flaccid commercialismof American society is well known, hi 1899 he warned 
citizens against being lulled into a "swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace" 
and seduced by the "over-civilized man," by which he and other militarists 
meant feminized, excessively cerebral intellectuals who believed that man's 
baser instincts had been forever subdued by the triumph of bourgeois politics 
and economics. To counter these threats, Roosevelt prescribed war as a 
regenerative remedy. "He gushes over war," wrote the psychologist William 
James, one of Roosevelt's Harvard teachers, "as the ideal condition of human 
society, for the manly strenuousness which it involves ." The burdens of the 
presidency contained Roosevelt's enthusiasmfor battle and empire as an 
expression of national glory, and he even lent his support for an international 
arbitration court to be established in The Hague. Yet he nonetheless presided 
over an extraordinary expansion of the government and the armed forces in the 
realm of foreign policy.- 

Ford, born on a farm, resentful to the point of paranoia of America's eastern 
elite, and scornful of their bourgeois conceits, could hardly be considered 
"overcivilized." Yet that's exactly why his "pussyfooting" pacifism, as 
Roosevelt put it, represented such a threat to the ex-president's martial 
nationalism Neither an old-line isolationist nor an intellectual pacifist, Ford 
promoted an expansive heartlandAmericanismthat sought to break the 
equation, often made by radicals, between industrial capitalismand militarism 
He insisted that you could have the former without the latter. Although he was 



ridiculed in the press after his return fromNorway in January, Ford's pacifism 
continued to resonate with many Americans, not just dissenters but mainstream 
Christians and, before Ford went public with his anti-Semitism, Jews. "Henry 
Ford and his party are but swelling the ranks of 'fools ' and 'madmen,' " said 
Philadelphia rabbi Joseph Krauskopf in his Sabbath sermon to mark the sailing 
of the Oscar, "but they are in good company. . . . Would to God, we had more of 
their sort of foolishness." Ford even beat both Roosevelt and Wilson in a St. 
Louis straw vote for president.— 

Ford didn't win that nomination, but he didn't run. Fhs candidacy was 
entered without his approval and he didn't make speeches, engage in debate, or 
attend the nominating convention held in Chicago in June. Still, in the months 
leading to the convention, he received an outpouring of encouragement from 
fanners and industrial workers urging himto "fight the munition manufacturers." 
"1 am just a humble farmer," one letter said, "but my three greatest desires are to 
vote for Ford, own a Ford, and see Ford elected president by the greatest 
majority given any man." Residents of Parker, South Dakota, distributed 
handbills proclaiming that "no names are greater in the whole universe than 
George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Henry Ford."— 

This last encomium must have irked Roosevelt, for he often invoked Lincoln 
to scold pacifists. He sent Ford a letter in February 1916, telling him that by 
putting "peace above righteousness" he had made pacifism the "enemy of 
morality." "Righteousness if triumphant brings peace," he wrote, "but peace 
does not necessarily bring righteousness."— 

THREE MONTHS LATER Roosevelt tookhis cause to the home of Fordism 
He arrived in Detroit early on a May morning to the cheers of over a thousand 
well-wishers. The Michigan Republicans who organized the visit urged himto 
ignore Ford. But Roosevelt couldn't contain himself, saying that he had come 
"girded to fight the pacifismof Ford." Nearly all of his comments were aimed, 
either directly or indirectly, at the industrialist. At the city's Opera House, an 
overflow crowd fought with police and firemen for an opportunity to hear the 
Bull Moose, who received a standing ovation when he called Ford an enemy of 
the "welfare of the country and its people." "I've got two sons to go," yelled a 
woman from the balcony in response to Roosevelt's call for universal military 
service. "Madam," he responded, "if every mother in the country would make 



the same offer, there would be no need for any mother to send her sons to war" 
— a reference not lost on the crowd since Ford's son, Edsel, had not enlisted.— 

Roosevelt enjoyed a reputation as a progressive, a buster of trusts and 
promoter of government regulation over industry. But by the time he reached 
Detroit he had largely abandoned his earlier advocacy of "social justice." He 
had learned a lesson taught to many a would-be refonner: the drive to achieve a 
more equitable domestic society is too divisive a crusade — it is much easier to 
focus outward, on external threats, to achieve unity than to fight for fairness at 
home. Roosevelt's preparedness campaign therefore meant more than national 
defense. It meant national identity. 

Thus Roosevelt, even as he urged vigilance against Germany, could admit 
that he admired his Prussian adversaries for their discipline. "The highest 
civilization can only exist in the nation that controls itself," he told his Opera 
House audience. "Above all, we must insist upon absolute Americanism" 
Roosevelt's vision of praetorian nationalism was directed squarely at Ford and 
his kitsch civic pageantry, and the praise he had earlier heaped on Ford's 
Sociological FJepartment for breaking down "hyphenated Americanism" had 
given way to contempt. In his call for universal conscription that May day, 
Roosevelt railed against the notion that "Americanism" could be forged on the 
factory floor, in the industrial city, or in the theatrics of papier-mache melting 
pots and derby hats. What Roosevelt called the "great factories of 
Americanism" were to be found not in Highland Park but in the collective effort 
of war, or at least in the collective effort needed to prepare for war. "I believe the 
dog-tent would be a most effective way for democratizing and nationalizing our 
life," he said, "quite as much so as the public school and far more so than the 
American factory."— 

Ford responded by casting Roosevelt as an anachronism from the past 
martial century, a wandering old soldier looking for one last battle to fight. 
"Ordinarily one considers an ex-president a little different from the everyday 
citizen," remarked Ford. "It has been seven years since he was President, and in 
that time he has entirely failed to understand the trend of events and the 
sentiments of the people. I consider Roosevelt so antiquated that the 'ex' 
business does not mean anything. I consider himjust an ordinary citizen 
because he does not keep up with the times."— 



He then left Detroit to go fishing, abruptly ending speculation as to whether 
the two Americanists would meet. 

The United States entered World War I in April 1917, but that didn't stop the 
feud. In 1918, Ford announced he was making a bid for Michigan's seat in the 
US Senate in order to support Wilson's proposed League of Nations. He lost 
that election too, though he did come within a few thousand votes of winning, 
again without having campaigned or spent any money electioneering.— 

Roosevelt worked for Ford's Republican rival, condemning Ford's pacifism 
as treasonous, making an issue of Ford's earlier comment that he thought the 
American flag "silly."— Politicians and journalists joined in denouncing Ford as 
"criminal" and "insane," unfit forpublic office. "Upon some of the biggest 
questions of Americanism," wrote the Chicago Tribune, "Henry Ford is, to our 
way of thinking, wrong. He is dangerously wrong. We agree with Theodore 
Roosevelt." Roosevelt even called on Ford to sacrifice Fidselto atone for having 
opposed America's entrance into the war, since the fighting would have been 
over in ninety days and many lives spared "if we had prepared." Ford belonged 
not in the Senate, he said, but "on the mourners ' bench."— 

Roosevelt died in early 1919, having lived to witness Ford's pacifism, 
seemingly triumphant in 1915, wilt in the face of the fervor in which Americans 
marched into war. Roosevelt also saw Ford turn his factory over to war 
production, leading many who had simply considered the cannaker a fool to 
now think him a hypocrite. And he even bested Ford with his death: Ford had 
planned to run a "scathing" indictment of himin the inaugural issue of the 
Dearborn Independent, a local newspaper Ford purchased in 1918, but he was 
forced to scrap it on news that the ex-president had passed.— 

FORD WAS IMMUNEto the emotions ofnationalismand deaf to the 
grievances of history. The motor force of his internationalism, the one true 
thing that moved him, was constructive, rationally ordered activity, which he 
believed could be transplanted to any country to help mute political passions. 
What did it matter that India was colonized by Great Britain if its people were at 
work making things? Would Serbians care that they were oppressed if they had 
factory jobs to go to? What did matter was war, for it was an absolute mockery 
of everything Ford stood for. He was appalled by the destruction, by the 
insanity of using factories, machines, and men to kill rather than to make. 



"Every time a big gun was fired, it cost almost as much as a Ford car," wrote a 
contemporary to explain Ford's disgust. "A rifle cartridge cost almost half as 
much as a spark-plug. The nitrates burned up in explosives would fertilize all the 
worn-out farms in the world." One day during the war, Ford, having learned that 
twenty thousand men had been killed within the previous twenty-four hours, 
quickly figured that if those wasted men had worked for him for a year they 
would have earned $30 million. Capitalized at a standard rate of 5 percent, Ford 
calculated, that meant that $600 million was lost in a single day- 
World War I, along with Ford's failure to stick to his own convictions when 
the US entered it, prompted a gradual revision of his internationalism He still 
continued to insist that his balm of hard work, high wages, and moral living 
could be universally applied, regardless of country or creed. Yet through the 
1920s, Ford would back away fromhis high modernist disdain for "tradition," 
coming to believe that if the world was to be saved it needed to look for 
solutions rooted in the small-town values of America's past. 

-Ford also appreciated \ictor Hugo, jotting down in his notebooka 
translated paraphrase of a fairly obscure quote fromhis fellow world- 
government advocate: "I represent a thing that does not yet exist the party of 
the revolutionary civilization will come in the 20th century," giving rise first to 
"the United States of Europe and then the United States of the world" (BFRC, 
accession 1, box 14, folder 8). 



CHAPTER 4 

THAT'S WHERE WE SURE CAN GET GOLD 

HENRY FORD DIDN'T MUCH LIKE TO READ. READING WAS LIKE A 
"dope-habit," he said. "Book-sickness is a modem ailment." He delegated most 
of the reading and writing required to run his company and keep up his public 
persona to his subordinates, as Ford himself admitted when one or another of 
his pronouncements got him into trouble. "Mr. Delavigne wrote that," was 
Ford's fallback defense when criticized for undermining American military 
preparedness; Theodore Delavigne, his "peace secretary," ghostwrote many of 
Ford's pacifist manifestos. "Why should I clutter my mind with general 
information," he once asked, "when I have men around me who can supply any 
knowledge I need?"- 

Ford wasn't illiterate, as his detractors claimed, though he did pass on 
several opportunities to prove otherwise. In 1919, Ford sued the Chicago 
Tribune for libel for having called himan "anarchist" yet in his testimony 
refused to read passages iromdocuments entered as evidence. He forgot his 
spectacles, he said, or his eyes were too watery from"the hay fever." He 
claimed he didn't care that he gave the impression that he couldn't read. "I read 
slowly, but I can read alright." 

Ford was in fact an impressionistic reader, and he was animated by big ideas. 
He insisted that his dog-eared copy of Orlando Smith's A Short View of Great 
Questions, which popularized for an American audience highbrow German anti- 
Semitism and Oriental metaphysics, "changed his outlook on life." And he 
continued to quote "Locksley Hall" until the end of his life.— 

Ford's cultivation of himself as a heartland sage dispensing folksy wisdom 
owes much to the influence of William Holmes McGuffey's Eclectic Reader, his 
childhood civics textbook. The early twentieth century was swollen with books 
— many of themstill found, underlined and annotated, on the shelves of his 
estate, Fail - Lane — that defined what it meant to be modem, ideas concerning 
diet, exercise, reincarnation, and politics that Ford often passed on to friends 
and employees. "Mr. Ford wouldn't discuss the books he read or anything like 
that," said Albert M. WibeL head of the company's purchasing division. "He 
just did it enough to make me think, 'What the heck is he talking about? I'm 
going to find out.'" Though not always with enthusiasm; "I hated those God 
damn soybeans and didn't want any part of them," he said about one of Ford's 
more enduring obsessions.- 

Ford liked to keep his advice short and simple yet his interest in matters 
philosophical led him to expand his vocabulary. The Ford Archives hold dozens 
of his "jot-it -down" pocket notebooks, which Ford kept at the ready to save his 
thoughts and occasionally list variations of words: 
Met a physic 



Met a physical 
Met a physician 
Met a frzishan 
Met a physics 

Coming upon his boss in his Fair Lane sitting roomreading Ralph Waldo 
Emerson, Reverend Marquis, the minister who headed the Sociological 
Department, asked Ford what he thought of the "Concord philosopher." 
"Emerson's a pup," Ford replied. "Why a 'pup'?" Marquis asked. "Well," Ford 
said, "I just get comfortably settled to the reading of him, when he uses a word I 
don't understand, and that makes me get up and look for a dictionary. "— 

Of all of Henry Ford's many intellectual influences, Emerson was his most 
enduring muse. Ford appreciated the Concord philosopher's optirrrismand 
celebration of individualism and self-reliance. But he also found in Emerson a 
useful corrective to the writings of other nineteenth-century pastoralists, who 
saw industry as a violation of nature. William Wordsworth, for instance, 
protested the coming of the railroad to England's lake country in 1844,waming 
against the spread of the mechanical "fever of the world." "Is then," he asked, 
"no nook of English ground secure fromrash assault?" Emerson, in contrast, 
celebrated steampower, railroads, and factories as rejuvenating forces that 
would help man fully realize the wonders of the natural world. Mechanization 
opened up the West, dissolved Old World hierarchies and stifling customs, 
turned deserts into gardens, and freed the mind from meaningless laborto allow 
more contemplative thought, hi answer to the poet who feared that the railway 
and the "factory -village" would break the "poetry of the landscape," Emerson 
insisted that both "fall within the great Order not less than the beehive or the 
spider's geometrical web. Nature adopts them very fast into her vital circles, and 
the gliding train of cars she loves like her own." In the years after World War I 
ended the optimism of the Progressive Era, Ford would prescribe a similar 
holismas a solution for America's problems, setting out on an increasingly 
manic quest to restore order to a world off-kilter.— 

THE IMMEDIATE CATALYST for Ford's initiative was America's 1920 
recession. The downturn lasted less than two years, short compared to either 
the six-year contraction that began in 1873 or the great desolation that would 
come in 1929. Yet the drop in economic output was acute, revealing the 
vulnerability of both urban and rural society under the new regime of mass 
consumer capitalism Banks failed and businesses closed. Unemployment 
skyrocketed in cities and families went hungry. The recession and its aftermath 
were a blow to one of Ford's mostly loyal constituencies, fanners, who still 
made up about a third of the US labor force. The price of agricultural products 
plummeted by as much as 40 percent, never to fully recover, even after the 
economy began to grow again in 1922. It was the first serious downswing since 



Ford had put his industrial and social system into place in Detroit the decade 
previous, and it galvanized him into action. For the rest of his life he would 
commit a good part of his great wealth to addressing the problem of industry 
and agriculture by trying to hannonize the two. "We cannot eat or wear our 
machines," said Ford, 'if the world were one vast machine shop it would die. 
When it comes to sustaining life we go to the fields. With one foot in agriculture 
and the other in industry, America is safe." 

Ford increasingly began to preach, and then tried to implement, what he 
called his 'Village industry" program More and more after 1920, his 
conversations with reporters were dominated by different iterations on one 
topic: away to reconcile farm and factory work. A return to the fields, he said, 
would solve urban poverty, the application of industrial technology to fannlife 
could relieve rural drudgery, and decentralized hydroelectric plants could 
liberate manufacturing and farming communities from the high prices charged 
by the parasitical "energy trusts." Having helped do away with the horse as a 
source of transportation, he believed that in the "future farm animals of all kinds 
will be out. We don't need them We will be better off without them" And to 
prove his point, he set up a small, fully mechanized farmjust outside Dearborn. 
But mechanization was part of the problem, for the formula that provided Ford 
so much success in Detroit and Dearborn — machinery to lowerprices, lower 
prices to increase demand, increased demand to make up for slimmer profit 
margins — didn't work for agriculture. New mechanized farm equipment, 
including Ford's Model Ts and Fordson tractors, might have relieved the slog 
of farmwork, but it continued to drive down prices by increasing yield. Com, 
wheat, and other commodities poured into America's great industrial centers, 
selling at prices well below what many small to midsize farmers could live on.— 

Ford hoped to solve this problemby finding industrial uses for agricultural 
products, and he directed his chemists to synthesize beans, com, flax, and 
wood chips into grease, fuel, paint, artificial leather, organic plastics, and 
assorted chemical compounds. "I believe," Ford said, "that industry and 
agriculture are natural partners. Agriculture suffers fromlackof a market for its 
product. Industry suffers from a lack of employment for its surplus men." The 
time would come, he thought, when "a fanner not only will raise raw materials 
for industry, but will do the initial processing on his farm He will stand on both 
his feet — one foot on soil for his livelihood; the other in industry for the cash 
he needs. Thus he will have a double security. That is what I'm working for." No 
crop better promised to achieve this balance than soybeans, and over the next 
two decades Ford would spend four million dollars on soy research and more 
than twice that amount on soy processing equipment and physical plant 
facilities. His laboratories turned its oil into car enamel and house paint, varnish, 
linoleum, printer's ink, glycerin, fatty acids, soap, and diesel, and its meal and 
stalks into horn buttons, gearshift knobs, distributor parts, light switches. 



timing gears, glues and adhesives, and pressed cardboard. Ford even began to 
talk about the possibility of "growing cars" and had the body of one made 
entirely of plastic. Dubbed the "soybean car," it was ditched soon after it 
became clear that the strong mortuary smell from the formaldehyde used to 
process the plastic was not going to subside.- 

Ford also promoted soy as a wonder food. He hired Edsel Ruddiman, a 
childhood friend and scientist after whom he named his only child, to develop 
novel foodstuffs from soy. He forced his associates to eat soy "biscuits," 
described by one employee as the "most vile-tasting things you ever put in 
your mouth," and served his dinner guests soy banquets, course after course 
of dishes made fromsoybeans, including puree of soybean, soybean crackers, 
soybean croquettes with tomato sauce, buttered green soybeans, pineapple 
rings with soybean cheese, soybean bread with soybean butter, apple pie with 
soy crust, roasted soybean coffee, and soymilkice cream. Ford thought soy's 
most promising food use would be as vegetable shortening, oleomargarine, and, 
of course, milk, which would allow him once and for all to eliminate cows. "It is a 
Simple matter to take the same cereals that the cows eat and make them into a 
milk that is superior to the natural article and much cleaner," Ford said in 1921. 
"The cow is the crudest machine in the world. Our laboratories have already 
demonstrated that cow's milk can be done away with and the concentration of 
the elements of milk can be manufactured into scientific food by machines far 
cleaner than cows."- 




Hemy Font sitting in a wheat field. divssed in a suit made of say fiber. 



FORD'S FIRST SUSTAINED attempt to put his "one foot in agriculture, one 
foot in industry" program into effect took place in Michigan's remote and 
sparsely populated Upper Peninsula, a region connected to Wisconsin in the 
west and bounded by Lake Superior to the north, the St. Mary's River to the 
east, and Lake Huron to the south. The Upper Peninsula's economy was based 
largely on copper and timber, both of which had been exploited to the point of 
exhaustion by the time Ford, in 1919, dispatched an agent to buy large tracts of 
land, sight unseen, in the region — -just as he would do later in the decade in 
Brazil. By the mid- 1920s, he had purchased property in the Upper Peninsula 
roughly the size of what he would a few years later own in the Amazon, 
sprawling across four counties and encompassing a number of small mill towns, 
including Pequaming, Munis ing, L'Anse, and Iron Mountain. The economic 
motive was to acquire the forests to provide the lumber needed for his Model T. 
Each car required 250 board feet of hardwood, the price of which was rising 
steadily as industrial demand increased and timber stocks decreased.- 

"1 was forced to get ahold of the forests," Ford said. 

Yet as would be the case in the Amazon, Ford's objective was much more 
ambitious than merely gaining direct access to a single raw material. While 
every component of his expanding empire was to feed into the Rouge, he 
imagined each to be a model of integration on its own, generating hydropower 
if possible and finding new uses forks byproducts — updating Emerson's ideal 
of self-sufficiency for the industrial age. 

At Iron Mountain, an economically depressed city of eight thousand 
residents — most of its mines had been shut down and the surrounding forests 
had been stripped of their valuable hardwoods — Ford built a state-of-the-art 
industrial sawmill, the most efficient and modem the United States had yet seen. 
Dubbed the River Rouge of the North, the complex included fifty-two dry kilns , 
three factories making parts for the Model T, and its own electricity plant 
powered by a Ford-built dam Ford had become obsessed with the potential of 
hydroelectric ity as a way of freeing industrial communities from the grip of 
"energy trusts," On his camping trips with his friends Thomas Edison and John 
Burroughs, Ford would walk up and down every stream they came across, 
speculating how much horsepower could be harnessed from its currents, and by 
the end of the 1920s he had built or acquired at least ten hydroelectric plants 
throughout the US.-^ 

Unlike the lumber barons of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries 
who ravaged northern Michigan's yellowpine groves, leaving behind cutovers 
of high stumps and waste, Ford saw himself as a conservationist. He insisted 
that, wherever possible, his lumbermen use "selective logging" practices to 
prevent deforestation, cutting only mature trees or targeted species. In areas 
where a clear cut was required, he ordered his lumberjacks to saw trees as low to 



the ground as possible, no more than sixinches high, as opposed to the two- 
foot or higher trunks the logging companies left. These clean forest cuts 
allowed for quicker and fuller second growth, limited forest fires, and made it 
possible for Ford's managers to conduct reforestation experiments, something 
that the "commercial mills" — as Ford's men labeled other logging companies 
operating in the Upper Peninsula — rarely practiced. Much of Ford's 
conservation instinct came from his childhood growing up on his father's 
Dearborn farm, which maintained large forest reserves from which timber for 
construction was culled. "We don't want to destroy all the growth there is there 
just because we are going to operate this mill today," Ford told the head of his 
Iron Mountain operations. "Lookout for tomorrow, next month, next year."— 

Iron Mountain also included a five-story chemical laboratory. As at the 
Rouge, Iron Mountain managers and chemists pursued a restless quest to 
recycle all waste products. They used "every part of the tree except the shade," 
as historian TomMcCarthy puts it, producing $11,000 worth of value eveiy day 
from mill waste, including 125 pounds of acetate of lime, sixty -one gallons of 
methyl alcohol (one-fifth of America's total production), antifreeze, artificial 
leather, and fifteen gallons of tar, oil, and creosote. Sawdust, underbrush, 
branches, wood chips, and cull lumber — that is, defective logs pulled from piles 
of otherwise serviceable timber — were turned into charcoal "briquettes" (which 
today continue to be sold under the brand name Kingsford) or burned to power 
steam engines and heat worker bunkhouses.— 

THE LAND FORD purchased in the Upper Peninsula came with people. Iron 
Mountain was a relatively large city for the region, full of mining and timbering 
old-timers and new arrivals hoping to make good on the coming of Ford. Ford 
could react only piecemeal to its boon>bust-boom problems — its shortage of 
adequate housing, its speculators driving up land prices, its lack of health care, 
schools, and sanitation, and its many brothels, speakeasies, and morphine dens. 
But elsewhere in the Upper Peninsula Ford acquired large tracts of virgin 
timberland, dotted with small, remote lumber camps and mining towns . He 
imagined them to be blank canvases on which to paint his vision of industrial- 
rural wholeness. 

"Your vacation is over, boys," announced Ford's manager to the thirteen 
workers who ran a very small mill in the village of Pequaming, purchased by 
Ford in 1923. Nearly overnight the hundred or so families saw their backwater 
village transformed, as the Ford Motor Company became the de facto municipal 
authority, responsible for its sanitation, schools, power, and even churches , 
Ford paid Pequaming lumberjacks and sawyers more than double the prevailing 
wage, but he would also impose Ford-style regimentation. "One was not even 
penrritted to lean against a lumber pile or sit down for five minutes to figure up a 
lumber tally," remembered one sawyer. "It was compulsory to stand up perfectly 



straight on two feet." Smoking was prohibited while on the clock, and town 
commissaries were forbidden to sell tobacco products and alcohol. All workers 
were required to undergo a medical examination, the cost of which was 
deducted from their newly increased salaries. 

There were other deductions as well, for laundering, for instance, even if the 
worker didn't avail himself of the service. The idea was that if he paid for it he 
would use it and therefore wearclean clothes. Ford raised rents, more than 
compensated for by better wages, and he used the money to completely make 
over the villages. In Pequaming and other towns and villages, construction 
crews repaved streets, built new schools, and repaired and reroofed buildings. 
And they painted. "Paint, paint, paint. He had sixoreight men painting the year 
'round,''' said one worker in Ford's Upper Peninsular operation. 'They painted 
every house and every one of the company shops. Then they'd go back and 
start all over again." In grimy mining towns, "lawns were cut and flowers were 
planted."-^ 

Located on the shores of Lake Superior, rustic Pequaming became a Ford 
favorite. He built a summer bungalow there, traveling to the town at least a few 
times a year, reviewing the modernization of its sawmill and its experimental 
plantings of soybeans, potatoes, and other crops. He and his wife, Clara, took a 
personal interest in Pequaming's schoolhouse. By this point in their lives, the 
Fords were patronizing a number of experimental schools throughout the 
Midwest, rejecting mass public education in favor of small, personalized 
classrooms and experiential learning, which were to cultivate not just job skills 
but manners and character. Ford's curriculum emphasized "learning by doing" 
— in addition to reading, writing, and math, girls were instructed in homemaking 
skills, and boys in vocational training, and all children were taught how to 
garden. Pequaming's school became a model of Ford pedagogy, and Ford 
himself would participate in teaching the children old-style dances like the 
quadrille, the five-step schottische, and, Ford's favorite, the varsovienne, a 
Polish round dance with a polka beat. "Unless Mr. Ford asked for something 
special," remembered Oscar Olsen, a fiddler hired by Ford as Pequaming's music 
instructor, "we would just dance along like we always had," teaching the 
children howto round and square dance.— 

At times one Ford idea would contradict another, hi Pequaming, for 
instance, he hoped to restore the importance of community in industrial life, yet 
children were no longer allowed to enter the mill to bring lunch to their fathers . 
He wanted to nurture self-reliant "farmer-mechanics," giving his lumberjacks, 
sawyers, and miners garden plots to grow their own vegetables. But he also was 
committed to the idea of creating integrated consumer markets . So he ordered 
families to tear down their picket fences, which were used to corral cows, 
chickens, and pigs in their front yards. With their increased salaries, 



Pequaming's residents were now expected to buy their own meat, eggs, and 
milk. 

Then there were the villages and camps Ford had built fromwhole cloth, 
deep in the woods , the "likes of which no sober lumberjack had ever dreamed," 
wrote one company historian. Ford had the idea of founding one such town 
when he was driving through a densely wooded and isolated area of the Upper 
Peninsula between Pequaming and Iron Mountain. Coming upon a site he 
thought especially pretty, Ford ordered his men to dig an artificial lake and build 
a lumber mill. Deep in a remote hardwood forest, Alberta, as the settlement was 
named, became another of Ford's Upper Peninsula showcases, its dozen or so 
workers all expected to divide their time lumbering, milling, and farming. Unlike 
the filthy, cold, and vermin -infested rough cabins woodsmen were used to, 
Alberta was an electrified oasis of modem America. It sported indoor lighting, 
streetlamps, cement sidewalks, showers, clean, screened private bunks, 
recreation rooms, and movies. The company put into place an innovative steam 
heat system to keep the bunkhouses warm during the extremely cold winters 
and served wholesome food "in a large, clean dining hall." 'Tt is spick-and-span 
all over,''' said one observer of Alberta. "You don't see sawdust and bark and 
dirt. It is always clean. It is a lovely little setting there in the woods by the man- 
made river pond. There are some beautiful homes. From that standpoint it is 
marvelous ."— 

But from another standpoint, it was more Potemkin village than practical 
model for how to organize society. In Alberta, there were too few families to 
build the relations and institutions that integrated and tied a community 
together, and residents felt isolated, having to travel miles to buy anything 
beyond the most basic necessities, to see a doctor, or to attend church. And 
Alberta, along with Pequaming and other small Ford-subsidized communities, 
made little economic sense, as whatever milled wood it provided could be cut 
more economically at Ford's industrial plants in L'Anse or Iron Mountain. It 
was, as historians Allan Nevins and Frank Ernest Hill put it, all the "stuff of a 
backwoods fairy tale." Yet through the 1920s, Ford purchased or created scores 
of similar small towns in Michigan and elsewhere, including nineteen on rivers 
within the vicinity of his River Rouge complex. These lower Michigan villages 
were more directly integrated into the production of Ford cars than Upper 
Peninsula lumbertowns. "Fanner mechanics" took the summer months off to go 
farm, cut hay, pick berries, tend gardens, and raise squab and spent the rest of 
the year manufacturing small parts that Ford outsourced fromHighland Park 
and the River Rouge, such as valves, ignition locks, keys, carburetors, starter 
switches, and lamps.— 

SHORTLY AFTER LAUNCHINGhis village industry programin Michigan, 
Ford made a bid to realize his industrial pastoralism on a large scale in a 



depressed river valley — not in the Amazon but in Muscle Shoals, along a 
stretch of the Tennessee River in northwestern Alabama. The valley connected 
with the lower Mississippi and served as the drainage basin of the southern 
Appalachian mountains, home to over four million people, most of them farmers 
who lived lives of isolation, disease, and poverty. 

During the war, the US government had started but never completed 
building a series of nitrate factories and hydroelectric dams. Ford promised to 
finish the factories and build a dam as majestic as the Nile's Aswan dam in 
Egypt, completed two decades earlier. Taming the unruly Tennessee River 
would stop its fearsome floods, make it navigable, and provide cheap electricity 
to the surrounding region. He also said he planned to establish a sevenfy-five- 
mile-long city, as thin as Manhattan but five and a half times its length. Other 
chaotic, unplanned cities grew in sprawls, in a "great circle" that trapped 
residents, never giving them a chance to "get a smell of the country air or see a 
green leaf." Those who lived in Ford's river metropolis, in contrast, would never 
be more than a mile from rolling hills and farmlands. The city — which some were 
calling a "Detroit of the South" — would exist symbiotically with the 
surrounding agricultural villages, drawing seasonal labor. In exchange, the Ford 
Motor Company would supply low-interest mortgages so workers could buy 
land to build a home (prefabricated to reduce cost) and farm Ford factories 
would pay high wages, serve as a market for crops, provide affordable fertilizer, 
and organize the cooperative use of machinery like tractors, binders , threshers , 
and mills. Ford schools would teach wives home economics and children a 
useful trade. Shops, churches, and recreational centers would line a meandering 
road that tethered one end of the imagined community to another — an "All 
Main Street" city was how one magazine described Ford's vision.— 

The benefits of the project would ripple out in concentric circles, supporters 
of the plan said, from southern Appalachia to the wider South, then to the 
Midwest and all of America. And sure enough, by 1922 vegetable and fruit 
production had increased throughout the valley, in expectation of the 
government's granting Ford the concession. The New York Times reported that 
former s lav eholding families who had kept their stagnant, undeveloped 
plantations "as a matter of sentiment ever since the Civil War" were selling them 
to entrepreneur farmers . As a result, a vibrant, dynamic population was "already 
being assembled for the city of Ford's dreams." The Atlanta Constitution, a 
New South tribune that had long advocated industrialization as a way of 
overcoming the Confederacy's manorial legacy, praised the project, wilting that 
it would revive steamboat commerce on the Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi 
rivers. "Within 500 miles of Muscle Shoals there are fifty large progressive cities 
and towns that would be vitally affected by the development of the Tennessee 
valley," including Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, 



Kansas City, Chattanooga, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Jacksonville.— 

For Henry Ford, Muscle Shoals would do this and more, pulling together the 
many threads of his social philosophy into one audacious bid-He offered not 
the "city on a hill" that looms so large in American mythology but rathera "city 
in a valley," powered by hydro electricity, which would liberate residents from 
the energy trusts — in this case, fromthe Bmrtingham-based Alabama Power 
Company, which monopolized the region's power supply. Cheap fertilizer could 
help end poverty and revitalize the agricultural sector: "There are too many 
people in this country — too many mouths to feed, too many bodies to clothe 
— to permit any soil to become exhausted." His ribbon city would refute the idea 
that there "exists an essential conflict between industry and the farm" "The 
fanner is idle through part of the year, and consequently has to live on his 
hump," Ford said. "The worker in an industrial center is idle through part of the 
year, and he, too has to live on his hump." The way to overcome this waste was, 
he believed, "to fit agriculture and industry together so that the farmer may also 
be an industrialist and the industrialist may also be a farmer." And the 
development of hydroelectricity would truly make World War I the war to have 
ended all wars. "If the American people once can catch the idea of what water 
power means," he said, "they never again will submit to the proposition that to 
get power they must pay tribute to Wall Street." Ford even raised the idea of 
printing his own "energy dollar" — a regional currency based not on the gold 
standard but on the kilowatt output of the area's dams — as a way to break the 
power of banks. Since the money men would have no "part either in financing or 
operating Muscle Shoals," they wouldn't be able to manipulate Americans into 
war. "The one big thing which I see in Muscle Shoals," he said, "is an 
opportunity to eliminate war fromthe world." Dirt-poor fanners who until then 
knew the river only as a source of danger and flooding and workers hoping for 
a wage-paying job agreed, and they rallied to support Ford's proposal. One 
grassroots petition demanding the government hand over Muscle Shoals to 
Ford called the carmaker the "Moses for 80% of us ."— 




Frank Lloyd Wight ternarked that Folds valley city, imagined above in an illustration 
published in Scientific American in 1922. was "one of the best things" he had ever heatd 
of. Fold was "going to split up the big /acton: " Wight said. "He was going to give every 
man a few acies qfgmund for his own. " 

"If Muscle Shoals is developed along unselfish lines,' 1 Ford predicted, "it 
will work so splendidly and so simply that in no time hundreds of other 
waterpo wer developments will spring up all over the country and the days of 
American industry paying tribute for power would be gone forever. Eveiy 
human being in the country would reap the benefit. I am consecrated to the 
principle of Seeing American industry." "We could," he said, "make a new Eden 
of our Mississippi \alley, turning it into the great garden and powerhouse of 
the country."— 

NEVER FAR FROM Ford's sunny vision of an industrial arcadia as a 
solution to America's problems, and indeed inseparable from it, was a darkening 
opinion as to who was causing those problems. In the early days of his public 
fame, Ford's exhortations to achieve the kind of self-reliant individualism 
celebrated by Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed folksy. As he aged and many of his 
reforms either failed to solve or actually aggravated social problems, they 
sounded downright Nietzschean: "Prayers are a disease ofthe will," Ford 
quoted Emerson's "Self-Reliance" essay in his pocket notebook. 

Most Americans in the rrrid-1920s still thought of Ford as the Ford of 1914, 
the reformer who with his Five Dollar Day and Sociological Department 
promised to put into place a new industrial humanism, to cultivate virtuous, 
productive workers through civic education and the inducements of high wages 
conditioned on proper living. Yet Ford had pretty much abandoned his liberal 
paternalism His company, particularly his new River Rouge plant, had grown 
too big for such hands-on nurturing. Ford still paid better than most industrial 
companies, but he came to rely on two quite different tactics to increase 
productivity and enforce labor discipline in his far-flung Michigan empire. The 



first tactic was the speedup, which pushed the idea of synchronized assembly 
lines to the limits of human endurance and made working for Ford, as one 
employee who quit the line put it, a "fonnof hell on earth that turned human 
beings into driven robots." 'The chain systemyou have is a slave driver" 
wrote the wife of one worker to Ford. "That $5 a day is a blessing," she said, "a 
bigger one than you know but oh they earn it." Every day it seemed like the belt 
moved a little faster, as performance technicians, armed with stopwatches, 
shadowed workers, figuring out ways to shave off seconds here and there from 
their motions . Intellectuals and social critics began to draw attention to the 
dehumanization of the line. "Never before," wrote a contemporary observer, 
"had human beings been fitted so closely into the machines, like minor parts, 
with no independence or chance to retain their individual self-respect." Ford's 
factory turned workers into "mere containers of labor, like gondola cars of coal. 
They arrived full; they left in the evening as empty of human vitality as the cars 
were empty of coaL The trolleys which crawled away from Highland Park at 
closing time were hearses tbrthe living dead." "It's sickening to watch the 
workers bent over their machines," wrote Lou is -Ferdinand Celine, based on his 
firsthand study of the physical and mental health of Ford workers. "You give in 
to the noise as you give in to war. At the machines you let yourself go with two, 
three ideas that are wobbling about at the top of your head. And that's the end. 
From then on everything you look at, everything you touch, is hard. And 
everything you still manage to remember more or less becomes as rigid as iron, 
»21 

Fear was the second tactic, needed to forestall the discontent that such a 
systeminevitably generated. It was instilled largely by Harry Bennett, a former 
pugilist but inveterate brawler who presided over the company's so-called 
Service Department, nominally the employment office but in reality a three- 
thousand-member goon squad — described by the New York Tunes as the 
"largest private quasi-military organization in existence" — made up of spies and 
thugs armed with guns, whips, pipes, blackjacks, and rubber hoses otherwise 
known as "persuaders." Hired in 1916 to work security, Bennett quickly caught 
Ford's attention with his gamecock confidence, and he soon became not only 
Ford's enforcer but his near constant companion, one of the most powerful men 
in the company, whose authority was based not on any engineering or 
marketing knowledge but on his ability to terrorize workers, to make them 
conformto the Rouge's perpetual speedup. The former navy boxer used his 
connections with Detroit's Mafia to weave "the Ford Motor Company into a 
network of underworld connections with hoodlums of largely Italian origin, and 
the unholy alliance came into its own in the battle which Ford fought against 
the unions with increasing ferocity as the decade went by," wrote Robert Lacey. 
Where Ford in the press was touting his village industries as nurturing healthy 
communities, in the Rouge Bennett, according to historian Douglas Brinkley, 



used fear and intimidation to keep its "workforce of 70,000 as a group of 
isolated individuals, and not let themcreate a community." The terror spread out 
from Dearborn to encompass Ford's dispersed assembly plants, as Bennett 
cobbled together an interstate consortium of antiunion toughs. In Dallas, Texas, 
for instance, Bennett converted the Ford plant's champion tug-of-war team into 
a security unit, headed by one "Fats" Perry, who by his own estimation handed 
out scores of savage beatings . "If it takes bloodshed," the plant management 
told its workers during a forced mass meeting, "we'll shed blood right down to 
the last drop" to keep the plant union free.— 

It was not just physical violence, which Brinkley says Bennett dispensed 
with "brutish zeal," but the distrust generated by constant surveillance that 
kept workers in line. Bennett claimed that one in three line workers was an 
informer. "The whole city," recalled one union organizer, "was a network of 
spies that reported every whisper back to Bennett," allowing him to stalk 
workers not just within the Rouge's gates but in their "private life as well." He 
carried out Ford's edict that workers stop drinking, even in their own homes, 
and forced workers, at the pain of losing their jobs, to buy a Ford car.— For 
Ford employees, then, Fordism went from being a systemin which they were 
paid enough of a wage to be able to buy the products they made to being one 
where they had little choice in the matter.— 

Throughout the 1920s, most Americans, aside from those who worked inside 
a Ford factory or who had family who did, were unaware of Bennett's brutality. 
But they couldn't help know of Ford's anti-Semitism, which first erupted in 
public in 1920. Over the course of the next seven years, the Dearborn 
Independent, a local newspaper Ford purchased a year earlier, blamed the Jews 
for nearly all that was wrong with America, the degradation of its culture, the 
corruption of its politics, and the distortion of its economy through 
monopolies, trusts, and the "money system" It was Ford, and not his admirer 
Hitler, who popularized the Protocols of the Elders ofZion , a document 
concocted by Russia's tsarist government to fuel belief in the existence of a 
worldwide Jewish conspiracy. Most observers have located the roots of Ford's 
anti-Semitism in mid western populism's critique ofbankers and the gold 
standard, aggravated by Ford's tendency to reduce the complexities of the 
world to their most simple, mechanical tenns. The historian Richard Hofstadter 
called his hatred of Jews and Wall Street "the foibles of the Michigan farm boy 
who had been liberally exposed to Populist notions." Ford's anti-Semitism, 
however, was not just a holdover sentiment from America's receding agrarian 
past but also one element of a larger sinister appraisal of the world he helped 
7$ 

create.— 

In another of his notebooks. Ford scribbled a reference to Gustave Le Bon, a 
French sociologist who died in 1931, and his 1895 book. Psychology? of Crowds . 



It's a telling notation, for many have noted that both Mussolini and Hitler were 
influenced by Le Bon's argument that the "irrational crowd" was the defining 
feature of modem life, something that needed to be controlled lest it lead to 
degeneration. Ford was sympathetic to Nazism, and he seems to similarly have 
taken to heart Le Bon's warning that the "claims of the masses" were "nothing 
less than a determination to utterly destroy society as it now exists." Yet what 
stopped Ford fi"oin turning into a full-fledged fascist was that he tookthe 
opposite lesson fromLe Bon than did Mussolini and Hitler. Where the two 
fascists drew fromLe Bon to mobilize the masses — through political pageantry, 
mass communication, and, in the case of Hitler, an elirrrinationist racism — Ford 
put most of his energies into dispersing the threat, through his nany proposals 
to "decentralize" industrial production.— 

By the rrrid-1920s, the man who had assembled together in one factoiy the 
largest concentration of industrial workers in history had pronounced the 
crowded metropolis "doomed," crumbling under the weight of traffic, pollution, 
vice, and the cost of "policing great masses of people.' — Previewing the kind 
of antiurban sentiment that would become commonplace among the right in the 
United States in the years after World War II, Ford started condemning the city 
as "untamed and threatening," an "artificial," parasitical "mass" that "some day 
will cease to be." Throughout the 1920s, as the "claims of the masses" became 
impossible to ignore, particularly in Ford's own factories, where workers were 
beginning to contest the speedup and Bennett's ten'or. Ford fused his three 
great hatreds — of Jews, war, and unions — into a single conspiracy: "Unions are 
organized by Jewish financiers, not labor," he said. "Their object is to kill 
competition so as to reduce the income of the workers and eventually bring on 
war." "People can be manipulated only when they are organized," Ford 
insisted.— 

The man who once repudiated tradition and declared himself the executor of 
the modem world was having published under his byline in the Dearborn 
Independent articles that denounced "change," which he warned was "not 
always progress." "The trouble with us today is that we have been unfaithful to 
the White Man's traditions and privileges," one article said. Having thrown 
open his factoiy gates to workers fromacross the world and declared that he 
didn't like borders of any kind, he now looked warily at Ellis Island, with its 
"horde of people who have been systematically beforehand taught that the 
United States is a 'capitalistic country,' not to be enjoyed but to be destroyed." 
Ford would continue to condemn war and those who profited fromit, yet the 
man who once scolded Theodore Roosevelt for his antiquated militarism now 
cautioned his "race" that it needed to maintain "unrelenting vigilance" against 
two threats: one was a "corrupt orientalism" that was "breaking down the 
rugged directness of the White Man's Code," the other a "false cry of 'Peace, 



Peace' when there is no peace."— 

BEYOND THE PROBLEMS and abuses that Ford himself couldn't solve, 
created, aggravated, or compromised on — depressed agricultural prices, labor 
violence, anti-Semitism, the dehumanization of machine work, and war — it 
became apparent throughout the 1920s that both his car and his factoiy system 
worked against the world he hoped to bring into being. 

Ford imagined his method as a powerful integrator: the rational application 
of technology would allow for the holistic development of industry and 
agriculture; the tractor and other advances in mechanization would relieve the 
drudgery of field and bam, the car and truck would knit regional markets closer 
together, providing new sources of income for hard-strapped farmers; radios 
and telephones would overcome rural isolation (starting in the 1930s, Ford 
broadcast fro ma company studio in Dearborn his Sunday Evening Hour, which 
featured ''familiar music, majestically rendered," as well as editorials reflecting 
the "philosophic views of the Founder"); and grounding it all was a faith in the 
alchemic power of high wages to create prosperous, healthy working-class 
communities, with private profit dependent on the continual expansion of 
consumer markets. "Our buying class is our working class," Ford said clearly 
and simply, and "our working class must become our 'leisure class' if our 
immense production is to be balanced by consumption." At his most eccentric, 
Ford insisted that the fulfillment of this vision would result in a restoration of 
s mall-town America.— 

But Fordism, and the product it was first associated with, was also a potent 
dissolving agent .- The car transmuted sexual mores and loosened the bonds 
between men and women, children and parents. It alleviated the burden of 
fannwork and brought points on the map closer together, yet the automobile 
also began the trans fonriation of human settlements and migration patterns, 
broadening the social horizon of people's lives. Daily commutes grew longer, 
and families spread out. The extension of paved highways, the widening of 
existing thoroughfares, and the sprawl of industrialized metropolises were 
visible threats to the rural communities so treasured by Ford as the repository 
of American virtue. By 1920, the county Ford's wife grewup in, Greenfield 
Township, was absorbed by Detroit, and later in the decade he had to move his 
childhood home to save it fromdestruction due to the planned expansion of a 
county road. He relocated it to a model American town he had begun building 
near his River Rouge plant, which he named Greenfield Milage. As an industrial 
method, too, Fordismhad embedded within it the seeds of its own undoing. The 
breaking down of the assembly process into smaller and smaller tasks, 
combined with rapid advances in transportation and communication, made it 
easier for manufacturers to breakout of the dependent relationship established 
by Ford between high wages and large markets. Goods could be made in one 



place and sold somewhere else, removing the incentive employers had to pay 
workers enough to buy the products they made. While it would be decades 
before the implications of this change would become fully apparent, already by 
the 1920s the component elements ofthe economy that in Ford's mind operated 
as a symbiotic whole — land, labor, resources, manufacturing, finance, and 
consumption — were drifting apart. 

Ford responded by committing even more to his village industries, which he 
hoped would slow the flow of migrants to the cities, save fanns by bringing 
wage-paying industry to rural areas, and keep families intact — with women in 
the kitchen and men on the shop floors and in the fields. They also allowed 
Ford to continue to play humanity's redeemer, even as he was fending off 
criticismthat his anti-Semitism was perilously inflammatory and his factory 
systemhad become a soul-crushing thing. "1 sometimes think that the prejudice 
and narrowness ofthe present day," he said, "is due to our intense 
specialization." Get workers out into the country. Have them work under an 
open sky. "If we saw more sides of life ... we should be better balanced," he 
observed. "I think fanners are going to disappear in the course of time. Yes, and 
factory workers too. Every man will be a fanner some day, and every man will 
work in a factory or office. We've proven that already. I've built little factories 
along the little rivers ."— 

Yet his little factories along the little rivers were no match for the raw power 
ofthe changes taking place in American society, politics, and culture in the 
1920s, and in any case, Congress, afteryears of debate, had definitively rejected 
his Muscle Shoals proposal. An alliance of economic and regional political 
interests made the case that the US government was about to hand to Ford too 
good, too vague a concession. Would he own the mineral rights to the land? 
What about timber? What would happen to the project when Ford died? 

Building on the criticism, Nebraska's Republican senator George Nonis led 
the charge against the deal. A committed Progressive — and, particularly irksome 
to Ford, a close ally of the late Theodore Roosevelt — Norris believed that a 
project ofthe scope Ford was proposing should be carried out under the 
auspices of the federal government and not private interests . The senator was 
disturbed by the wild land speculations that had gripped the Tennessee \alley 
upon rumors of Ford's interest. The Muscle Shoals Land Corporation, founded 
in Detroit, staked out a tract of land on the banks of the Tennessee River, laid 
out boulevards with names such as Dearborn Avenue and Michigan Street, and 
incorporated the site as a city, dubbed "Highland Park." A group of 
newspapennen in Detroit pooled their money and bought up a square mile of 
the "dreamland," hoping to flip it for a profit. In New York, another start-up 
cashed in by selling twenty-foot lots of land. "Would you, if you could," 
promotional material asked potential customers, "associate yourself with the 
world's greatest manufacturer and industrial genius — HENRYFORD? 



Thousands of people have become independently wealthy through the 
development of Ford's gigantic industrial plants in Detroit, Michigan. Mr. Ford 
has recently stated that he would employ one million men and build a city 
seventy-five miles long at MUSCLE SHOALS." After reading of Ford's plans for 
the Tennessee \alley in the African American Chicago Defender, East Texas 
bluesman George Thomas captured the get -rich-quick spirit of the times in a 
song recorded by Bourbon Street-bom Lizzie Miles: "Hurry up, Papa, we must 
leave this town, got the blues for Muscle Shoals, that's where we sure can get 
gold." 

Norris was especially repelled to hear poor Southern fanners chanting, " 
'When Ford comes, . . . when Ford comes,' as if they were expecting the second 
coming of Jesus Christ." Muscle Shoals, he said, was the "most wonderful real 
estate speculation since Adam and Eve lost title to the Garden of Eden." Ford's 
offer to buy Muscle Shoals passed the House, but Norris and other 
Progressives opposed to the privatization of national resources, such as 
Wisconsin's Robert La Follette, killed it in Senate committee in mid-1924. The 
streets of Highland Park, with not one house built, soon "disappeared into 
cotton fields," wrote an observer, "the sidewalks, under brambles."— 

So Ford began to look abroad to implement a plan of refonnthat was failing 
at home. Having been denied the opportunity to redeem a poor rural river valley 
in Appalachia, he would find another in the Amazon. 



-Despite the peculiarity of many of Ford's ideas, contemporary social 
reformers offered similar schemes to commingle urban life and nature and 
reconcile if not Emersonian then Jeffersonian democracy with the industrial 
world. Frank Lloyd Wright, for instance, shared Ford's criticisms of the modem 
city, particularly the way its immense scale and density threatened to wipe out 
community and individualism Wright was directly influenced by Ford's 
proposed valley city. He often cited it as inspiration for his own Broadacre City, 
a planned community meant to showcase an architectural style that would blend 
organically with the landscape and allow "all that was human in the city to go to 
the country and grow up with it" (Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright on 
Architecture: Selected Writings, 1894—1940, ed. Frederick Gutheim, New York: 
Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1941, p. 144; Frank Lloyd Wright, Modern 
Architecture: Being the Kahn Lectures for 1930, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton 
University Press, pp. 108-9). 

-The tennFoidism evolved after the Mishington Post, condemning Ford in 
1922 for briefly shutting down his factory rather than pay high coal prices, 
defined it as "Ford efforts conceived in disregard or ignorance of Ford 
limitations," a category in which the paper included the peace ship. Around this 
time, the term was often interchangeable with Taylorism, after Fredrick Taylor, 



the pioneer of motion analysis who aimed to extract ever greater productivity 
out of workers through the isolation of the individual tasks needed to make a 
product. It also denoted standardization, efficiency, and mass production. By 
the late 1920s, Fordismbegan to take on its more comprehensive meaning, used 
to suggest a modernization of economic thought that appreciated the value of 
high wages as a motor of industrial growth. And sociologists and intellectuals, 
particularly those in industrialized European countries, started using it in 
tandemwith Americanism. In 1927, for instance, an article in London's New 
Statesman identified Americanism/Fordism as an industrial systemin which the 
pace of the factory determined productivity (as opposed to pace being set by a 
wage system that rewarded output): 'The worker under Fordism is speeded up, 
whether he likes it or not, by the pace at which the factory runs, by the endless 
streamof articles ceaselessly propelled toward him by the remorseless chain of 
machines. He must work at the factory's pace, or go; and go he will, unless he is 
offered a special inducement to remain." But the article also acknowledged that 
high wages, in addition to serving as an inducement to remain on the line, 
actually created large markets, which allowed industrialists to increase their 
takings even as profit margins were reduced: "It was found, not merely that high 
wages were fully compatible with low costs of production, but that the offer of 
higher wages still might be so used to stimulate a further fall in cost. High 
wages therefore became, with some employers, not merely a necessity that had 
to be faced, but a positive policy" (reprinted in the Living Age, May 15, 1927). 
By the 1950s, the termFordism had worked its way into social science 
tenrrinology, as scholars began to consider the foundations and implications of 
the United States' unprecedented postwar economic expansion. 



CHAPTERS 

FORDVILLE 

SHORTLYAFTER fflS SUMMER LUNCH WITH HARVEYFIRESTONE 
where they discussed the proposed British cartel, Henry Ford granted a long- 
sought audience to Brazil's New York-based consular inspector, Jose Custodio 
Alves de Lima. The Brazilian diplomat had been courting Ford for two years, 
since reading about his interest in growing rubber in the Florida Everglades, and 
had sent himsamples of Amazon rubber and minerals along with an elegantly 
carved cabinet made out of assorted rare rain forest hardwoods, all with the 
purpose of turning his attention to Brazil. De Lima had received permission from 
the governor of Para — one of the largest of the Amazonian states — to offer 
Ford "special inducements," tax and land concessions, in the hope that the 
industrialist would help revive the regional economy, depressed since 1910, 
when Brazil lost its rubber monopoly to Asia.- 

As he traveled from New York to Dearborn by train, de Lima reflected on 
Ford and what his investment in the Amazon would mean for Brazil. By that 
point, the Model T was more than a car: its speed, simplicity, and durability 
chanted freedom, its affordability spoke democracy. And Ford Motors had 
become mare than a company. Notwithstanding the criticismits assembly and 
speedup had provoked, its method of industrial relations, for many the world 
over, it had become synonymous with modem life, offering the promise of not 
only efficient production but the increased leisure time needed to enjoy the 
fruits of efficiency. YorAsm, fordismojbrdismus, or fordizatsia — in whatever 
language, countries hoping to shake off the scent of farm animals and catch up 
with the United States adopted some aspect of the systempioneered in Detroit 
and Dearborn. In countries with strong artisanal and mechanic traditions like 
France, England, Germany, and even the United States, intellectuals and craft 
unionists condemned Fordism for replacing the crafts man and skilled worker 
with mindless "jerks, twists, and turns." Yet by the early twentieth century, the 
world was increasingly divided between the industrial and the hoped-to-be- 
indus trial. And in the larger latter half, few harped on the downside of steady 
wages and mass, standardized production of low-cost goods.2 

Ford himself, lanky, "incessantly moving," "swift as a shadow," as the 
journalists John Reed and John Gunther respectively described him, embodied 



forrmny the vitality and quickness ofthe modern age. Carl Sandburg said that 
"one feels in talking with Ford that he is a man of power rather than of material 
riches." His half-cultivated, half-innate Delphic opaqueness — "I'm going to see 
that no man comes to know me," he wrote in one of his notebooks — allowed his 
followers to pick and choose what they liked fromhis philosophizing, uniting 
admirers as diverse as Lenin and Hitler, Trotsky and Mussolini.- 

By the time of de Lima's Dearborn visit, the Ford Motor Company was well 
established throughout Latin America. In 1914, it already operated sales offices 
in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, and \enezuela, and when World War I 
closed Europe off to business, the region served as the site of Ford's first 
extensive overseas expansion. Production began in Buenos Aires in 1917 and in 
Sao Paulo in 1920 and quickly spread to most major Latin American cities. By 
1925 Ford had a near monopoly on the car and truck trade in Brazil — 60 percent 
to 17 percent for General Motors — with over four million in sales and dealers 
throughout the country, including in Belem, the Amazon's major Atlantic port. 
Three years later, Ford would have seven hundred agencies and more than two 
thousand service garages in Brazil. The sturdy, high-off-the-ground Model T 
was particularly popular in the country's rugged backlands, serving, as it did in 
the rural United States, as an all-terrain vehicle for unpaved and ratted roads. 
Ford dealers sent caravans of cars, tractors, and tracks on publicity tours, 
parading thembefore audiences of up to a hundred thousand people in dozens 
of cities and towns during the day and screening films depicting Ford assembly 
lines and factories at night. In some regions, Ford tracks were converted into 
public buses and Model T engines were used to ran cotton gins and sugar 
mills .— 

Consul de Lima was fromsouthern Sao Paulo, the prosperous heart of his 
country's industrializing south, whose elites viewed the equatorial Amazon 
much the way northern US industrialists looked at southern states, as torpidly 
rural, economically backward, and beset by racial conflicts. Ford's first 
autobiography, My Life and Work, had recently been translated into Portuguese 
and was widely read among members of Sao Paulo's business and political 
class. Throughout the 1920s, paulistas, as residents of Sao Paulo are called, 
tookthe lead in building Brazil's modem highway systemand practically erected 
a cult of Henry Ford, understanding Fordismto be the antithesis of what the 



rest of Brazil was and the model of what it needed to become if it was to 
progress: industrial, rational, wage-based, and prosperous. A graduate of 
Syracuse University and a longtime resident of New York, de Lima had to have 
known Ford's opinion of Jews. He nonetheless pronounced the carmaker the 
"Moses of the twentieth century," who would turn the Amazon into the 
Promised Land. Ford's translator, Jose Bento Monteiro Lobato, also fromSao 
Paulo, called him the "Jesus Christ of industry" and described his life story as 
the "Messianic Gospel of the Future."- "For Brazil," he said, "there is no 
literature orstudy more fruitful than Henry Ford's book." Farthernorth of Sao 
Paulo, in the provincial town of Uberabinha, around the time of de Lima's 
campaign to woo Ford's attention, a local newspaper worked with business 
leaders to raise money to erect a statue to Henry Ford, in honor of the role his 
carplayed in opening up the back-land states of Goias and Mato Grosso.- 

FORHJS PART, Ford must have welcomed de Lima's attentions and the 
unreserved admiration of men like Lobato and other paulistas. He was sixty-one 
years old in 1925 and, though unparalleled in wealth and prominence, had, 
starting with his opposition to World War L suffered a string of political 
rebukes. And having been denied Muscle Shoals by, in his opinion, 
shortsighted and self-interested politicians, he must have viewed the 
cooperation offered by de Lima and other Brazilian statesmen as evidence that 
the Amazon valley provided a better opportunity to realize his industrial 
pastoralismthan did the lower Tennessee River. 

Ford greeted Consul de Lima in his office at the new River Rouge complex 
and, though still uncommitted, took the opportunity of the meeting to recapture 
a lost innocence. On display for the Brazilian diplomat in Dearborn that day was 
not the Hemy Ford who swore by the veracity of the Protocols of the Elders of 
Zion and increasingly defended a "white man's code." Nor was it the man who 
loosed Harry Bennett's "service men" on his factory floor, with their "guns, 
sticks, and other weapons, . . . enforcing obscure rules at their whim" and 
refusing to let workers sit, ever. It was not the Ford who presided over a factory 
where workers, not allowed to talk, learned how to speak without moving their 
lips, a skill they called "fordization of the face." It was not the Ford of the 
speedup, the man who by the late 1920s embodied the inhumanity of assembly 
line production, which turned the workers themselves into machines. Not the 



Ford who by that time was condemned in countless exposes and novels as the 
sponsor of the worst dehumanizing effects of mass industrial production. 

Rather, de lima met a Henry Ford thrust back to the mid-1910s, a man 
confident that he could wed industrial efficiency to human fulfillment. The 
Brazilian recounted the "simple speech and modest manner" with which Ford 
received him. Throughout their meeting, Ford remained standing, which a more 
observant guest with firsthand knowledge of the Rouge would have taken as an 
example of Ford's ability to turn his own manias into industrial policy, a subtle 
caution against the promises to come. But de Lima was an enthusiast, and he 
saw Ford's restlessness as vitality. After the two men discussed the nuts and 
bolts of the matter, how much land Brazil was willing to concede to the motor 
company, along with tax and tariff issues, Ford became expansive. 

He asked the Brazilian about the wages rubber tappers received. Thirty-six 
to fifty cents a day, de Lima answered; Ford replied that he had "no doubt that 
he would pay up to five dollars a day for a good worker." Brazilians, he said, had 
the right to work as "free men," not as "slaves." His principal concern was not 
the number of hours he got for his wages but the productivity of the labor 
force. True, he told de Lima, he strove for efficiency and took no stock in 
charity. Yet he asked that each worker only give to the job what he could. His 
factories, he said, employed the "blind, crippled and dumb," who "work only 
three hours per day, without feeling humiliated about it." 

Also making an appearance at that meeting was the Ford who absolutely 
believed that his systemof industrial fairness was all that was needed to 
prevent wars and revolutions . When "Peter tries to rob Paul of that which he 
prizes most, making him do extra work without due compensation, then naturally 
reaction ensues," he said. Ford even rehearsed his old Tennysonian 
internationalism for his Brazilian guest, telling the diplomat that when he did 
business he forgot that he was an American, "because a business man knows 
no country. He is bom by chance in this or that country." For Ford, the Amazon 
offered a fresh start in a place he imagined to be uncorrapted by unions, 
politicians, Jews, lawyers, militarists, and New York bankers, a chance to join not 
just factory and field but industry and community in a union that would yield, in 
addition to greater efficiency, fully realized men. 

"There will be schools," Ford said of his plans for the Amazon, "experiment 



stations, canteens, stores, amusement parks, cinemas, athletic sports, hospitals, 
etc. for the comfort and happiness of those who work on the plantation." 

IF DELTMA, quoted widely in the Brazilian press on the success of his 
Dearborn meeting, was the public face of the campaign to draw Ford to the 
Amazon, Jorge Dumont Villares played a stealthier role. Froma wealthy and 
politically connected Sao Paulo coffee-growing family, Mllares had arrived in 
Belem, the capital city of the Amazonian state of Para, in the early 1920s. 
Despite the collapse of the rubber economy, there was still money to be made in 
the many schemes floated to revive the trade. As the nephew of the famed 
aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, the man Brazilians insist invented the airplane 
only to have the credit stolen by the Wright brothers, Mllares, partial to linen 
suits and Panama hats, was relatively well known in elite circles. He was tall, 
thin, and a bit fussy, and he had a flair for the covert. Shortly after his arrival, he 
began to cobble together a loose confederacy of politicians, diplomats, and 
Ford officials, all with their own interests in luring Henry Ford to Brazil.- 

Mllares's first and most important ally in getting things moving was William 
Schurz, who served as Washington's commercial attache in Rio, though to the 
annoyance ofthe US ambassador he spent most ofhis time in the Amazon. 
"Generations of little men have nibbled, like mice, at the edges ofthe 
Amazonia," Schurz later wrote in a book he authored on Brazil — a remark that 
could be taken as autobiographical. Schurz had joined the Department of 
Commerce in the early 1920s, just at the moment that its secretary, Herbert 
Hoover, was greatly expanding its reach. Hoover tripled Commerce's budget and 
added three thousand employees, many of themattaches like Schurz, traveling 
salesmen of America's growing economic ambition. These "hounds" for 
American business, as Hoover called them, tended to ignore the big-picture 
geopolitics that so occupied State Department diplomats. Instead they lobbied, 
often with a Glengarry Glen Ross-tike aggressiveness, on behalf of a narrower 
range of interests specific to US corporations — as well as to themselves.- 

Schurzhad been a member of the 1923 commission organized by Hoover's 
Department of Commerce to study the possibility of reviving rubber production 
in the Amazon, part of Hoover's campaign to counter Churchill's proposed 
cartel. It was most likely fromhis experience on this commission that Schurz first 
realized the possibilities forprofit, especially after the 1925 announcement by 



Para's new governor, Dionysio Bentes, that he would make jungle property 
available at no cost to anyone willing to cultivate rubber. As a US diplomat, 
Schurz couldn't petition for land directly, so he allied with Mllares, with the idea 
that they would use Hoover's rubber crusade to sell their concession to an 
American corporation. Joining Schurz and Mllares was Maurice Greite, an 
Englishman who lived in Belemand called himself "captain," though no one 
knew of what. A longtime resident of the Amazon always on the lookout for the 
main chance, be it a lead mine or a land scheme, Greite quickly became more of a 
burden than an asset to Wares. But he did performone useful service. He 
introduced Mllares to Belem's may or, Antonio Castro, and to Governor Bentes, 
two men whose allegiances would need to be secured if the plan was to have 
any chance of succes s . In exchange for a cut of the money, both officials 
pledged their support. The mayor promised not to oppose the transaction and 
the governor, in September 1926, granted Mllares, Schurz, and Greite an option 
on 2.5 million acres in the lower Tapajos valley — one of the many places experts 
considered suitable for large-scale rubber cultivation. The three men had two 
years to either develop or sell the property. If they failed to do one or the other, 
they would lose their option and the land would revert back to the state.- 

At first, Schurz, fromhis embassy office in Rio, tried to interest Harvey 
Firestone. But when Firestone settled on Liberia, he turned his attention to the 
Ford Motor Company, writing letters to both Ford and his secretary, Ernest 
Liebold, hyping the possibilities of Amazonian rubber. As commercial attache, 
Schurz had access to US government-funded research being carried out on 
rubber, which he passed on to Liebold before the Commerce Department could 
process it and make it available to other potential investors. At the same time, 
both he and Mllares established contact with two men, W. L. Reeves Blakeley 
and William McCullough, whomFord had sent to Belem after his meeting with 
de Lima to scout out potential locations for a rubber plantation. There is no 
evidence that Blakeley took money, yet documents indicate that McCullough 
did. Mllares promised to pay him$18,000 for whatever help he could provide in 
making the deal move forward.2 

hi the Amazon, Mllares also began to enlist the services of the Belem-based 
US consul, John Minter. In this case, no money was proffered. But Mllares 's 
conspiratorial air had a way of pulling in confidants. He whispered to Minter 



that plans were afoot to infect Southeast Asian rubber plantations with South 
American leaf blight, a fungus native to the Amazon that was often lethal to 
rubber trees. It would take only one epidemic of blight, in Ceylon or Malaysia, 
Mllares told the US diplomat, to restore Brazil's domination of the global market. 
"A word to the wise is sufficient," Mllares said to the consul. He fed Minterbits 
and pieces of information regarding his negotiations with US corporations, 
including the contacts he had made with the Ford Motor Company, drawing the 
American official into his intrigues. He said that he had "secretly planted a 
nursery of 500,000 seedlings on hidden unclaimed property adjacent to that 
which Ford is likely to take up," so that Ford would have a ready stock of 
Hevea to begin planting once he committed to the project. The reason the 
nursery had to remain a secret, Mllares said, was that powerful local interests 
were conspiring to stop the deal from going forward. Before long, Mfnter was 
cabling his superiors back in the State Department telling them that he was 
putting his office and staff at the seivice of Mllares in his dealings with Ford. 
Mllares 's next step, in late summer 1926, was to travel to Dearborn to pitch his 
proposal directly to Henry and Edsel Ford, having secured an audience 
probably through either McCullough orBlakeley, with whom Mllares had 
established a friendship. 

Mllares was a skilled sycophant, and in his meeting with father and son 
Ford, he tacked back and forth between fear and flattery to make his case. The 
Brazilian presented them with a rough-drawn map of the property, which 
included two towns named "Fordville" and "Edselville."— Building on Schurz's 
spadework, he painted a fantastical picture of what could be accomplished in 
the Amazon, "the most fertile and healthy region in the tropical world." The 
Brazilian drew up a wish-list contract, naming himself executor of the project 
and granting the company the unfettered right to extract gold, oil, timber, and 
even diamonds. Mllares also promised Ford that he could harness 
hydroelectricity, import and export any material free of taxes and tariffs, and 
build roads, including two that would run three hundred miles up both banks of 
the Tapajos "into the vast wild rubber forests" of its headwaters, which would 
give Ford a complete monopoly over the valley's latexproduction. He told 
Henry and Edsel that he would greatly prefer to make the land available to an 
American, but if no one came forward he might be forced to transfer it to other 



interests before his option expired. It was painful, Wares told the Fords, to 
"even think that some ofmy homeland will go into the hands of Japs, Britishers, 
and Germans." "The call has been heard," Wares concluded his presentation, 
"and the surest guarantee that the enterprise will be a great success is that the 
first to answer the call was Ford. He never retreats. He never fails."— 

The meeting left Wares hopeful. FromDetroit's Cadillac Hotel, he wrote his 
fellow conspirator Greite and urged him to be patient: "Say nothing," for things 
with Dearborn were going well. "Tear this letter up," he instructed the captain.— 

Ford seemed to be hooked. Still, Wares was anxious. He left Detroit for New 
York, where he composed another letter, this one to Blakeley. If Ford didn't act 
quickly, he wrote his closest ally in the company, "Some one will realize it soon." 
"When you were down there," he asked, "did you notice a curious thing: 'The 
faith everyone has in Ford?' The magic in that name has penetrated into the 
hearts of the most humble; it has got into mine. They have faith in Ford, so 
have I. Thousands await his coming; he will come."— 



-The workof fiction most associated with Henry Ford is Aldous Huxley's 
1932 Brave New World, which describes a future in which a dystopic Fordism 
reigns supreme: babies are manufactured on assembly lines, the T has replaced 
the Christian Cross, and "History is bunk" stands as the official motto of an 
indolent, purposeless society overcome by a narcissismspawned by 
technological abundance. But six years earlier Lobato wrote a novel set in 2228, 
in an America transfonned by Ford's "pragmatic idealism" into an exemplar of 
mechanical efficiency and wealth, one that has allowed for the transcendence of 
class conflict. "Ford proved," Lobato writes, "that there was no antagonism 
between capital and labor." Yet "The Clash of Races," as the novel was 
originally called in Portuguese, is as bleak as Huxley's. Despite predicting the 
suppression of class struggle, the book imagines a world in which racial conflict 
has yet to be resolved. Its narrative focuses on a presidential contest where, as 
a result of a split in the white vote between a white man and woman, Jim Roy, an 
eloquent, intelligent black candidate, becomes president. The backlash against 
Roy's victory leads to the sterilization of all African Americans and, in unclear 
circumstances, the president-elect's death, which results in a restoration of 
white political power. Despite Lobato 's faith in Ford's redemptive powers, his 



book, written in 1925, before Ford committed to the Amazon, envisioned a 
troubled future for the region: what was Brazil would be split in half, divided 
into a progressive and prosperous south, joined by Argentina and Uruguay, 
and a northern, stagnant "tropical republic" (Jose Bento Monteiro Lobato, A 
onda verde e O presidente Negro, Sao Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1956, pp. 202 
-6,214). 



CHAPTER 6 
THEY WILL ALL DIE 

FORD REMAINED UNDECIDED, BUT HIS MEETING WITH JORGE Wares 
did prompt him to send CarlD. LaRue, a botanist at the University of 
Michigan's Ann Arbor campus, to Brazil to "find a good area somewhere" to 
plant rubber. LaRue had been to the Amazon once before, in 1923 as the head of 
Herbert Hoover's Department of Commerce-sponsored expedition aimed at 
surveying locations for rubber production, the same one US commercial attache 
William Schurz was on. On that trip, the botanist covered a wide radius of over 
25,000 miles, and his findings, along with those of other expeditions, identified 
several suitable locations scattered up and down the Tapajos River. These were 
mostly on public property, which Ford could have obtained directly through a 
government concession at little or no cost. This time, though, LaRue didn't 
revisit any ofthe sites he had scouted earlier but rather made a beeline fora 
fifty-mile strip along the east bank of the Tapajos, part ofthe land optioned to 
Villares, Schurz, and Greite. Later, once the details of the deal surfaced — a deal 
in which Ford essentially purchased property he probably could have gotten for 
free — rumors started to circulate that the Michigan professor was part ofthe 
con. LaRue denied the allegations, yet Ford never trusted him again. "Do not 
think we would benefit any by using him," was Ford's handwritten comment in 
the margins of LaRue 's subsequent offer to help get the rubber plantation up 
and running- 

Whether or not LaRue was involved in Villares 's swindle, his report — the 
main source of most everything Ford would know of the Amazon before 
committing to his rubber project — was like catnip to the industrialist- 
philosopher. Its first half made the botanical case for the Tapajos valley. "The 
vegetation is very luxuriant," with plenty of rainfall and good drainage, LaRue 
wrote. Its soil was rich, a palette of dark hues, red and yellow. "We saw very 
fine old trees," and "there is no question" that many of them would yield up to 
a gallon oflatexa day. The site sat high enough to be out ofthe reach of 
mosquitoes, composed mostly of plateaus cut with a few streams and no 
swamps, making it a perfect place fora settlement. The forests could be 
timbered for profitable export to the United States, and the potential for 
hydropower was "considerable." The Tapajos valley, LaRue concluded, was 
superior, often vastly so, to other established rubber-producing regions, such 
as Sumatra in Southeast Asia.- 

But it was the second section ofthe report, laying out the living conditions 
of the valley, that must have entranced Ford. It was his vision of hell. 

TRAVELING ALONG THE Tapajos during the second decade of Brazilian 



rubber's long twilight, LaRue painted a picture Dickensian in its attention to 
misery, one that in every way was the opposite of the world Ford believed he 
had created back in Michigan. "The people are everywhere poor and forlorn," 
the botanist wrote Ford, "most of them are penniless and without hope for the 
future. Many of them have not even had a piece of money in their hands for 
years." Children enjoy "no school, no play, no advancement and no hope even 
of life itself, for they are doomed to an early death fromhard work, poor food 
and disease," he recounted. "Thin, yellow and weak," with "drawn set faces," 
they have "nothing" but despair "until death overtakes them They have ceased 
to hope for any amelioration of their lot." 

During the previous decade, Ford, as part of his broader restructuring of 
industrial and human relations, had become interested in health care and worker 
safety. However much his concern may have been driven by a desire to create a 
more efficient workforce, Ford's unrivaled wealth allowed him to move beyond 
self-interest to provide decent medical services to many in the larger Detroit 
community. In 1915, he established his flagship namesake hospital, filled with 
state-of-the-art equipment and renowned for its expertise, where "everyone, rich 
or poor, paid the same nominal fees for the best care possible."- 

So LaRue was careful to record the health condition of the jungle's rubber 
tappers and nut gatherers who would make up Ford's labor force. "Some of 
these men are magnificent specimens," the botanist said, "but one sees a great 
many fever-stricken bodies among them Many also have horrible wounds and 
sores on their legs and feet. They are always nearly naked, covered merely by 
rags which have been mended upon mended until the whole costume is fairly 
quilted with patches; the patches themselves being full of holes." LaRue would 
"never forget" the "sight of a little nursing baby quite naked and completely 
smeared over with clay from the wet dirt floor," reporting that each household at 
any moment had at least one person laid low with malaria, groaning and tossing 
in bed. 

The majority of children suffered from hookworm, a disease that had 
received much attention from public health reformers in the United States, where 
it was prevalent among poor dirt farmers in Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. 
Left untreated, it resulted in extreme anemia, distended stomachs, and, as one 
study put it, a "craving for eating earth and all sorts of unnatural things." 
LaRue told Ford that he saw many, many children in the "clay eating stage" of 
the infection who had only a "few weeks to live." Matters were made worse by 
the poor diet — when "there is any food at all to be had" — consisting nearly 
entirely of dried pirarucu, an Amazonian catfish, and manioc. Milk and butter 
were "unknown," bread was found "only in larger towns," there was no fruit, 
not even bananas, and green vegetables were "very scarce." Medicine, 



including quinine for malaria, was sold at prohibitive prices, out of the reach of 
most. The afflicted sought relief in "bark and leaves," local remedies that LaRue 
allowed might have minor remedial benefits but were more likely "totally 
worthless, if not even injurious. "- 

LaRue explicitly linked the misery he witnessed to the region's system of 
debt peonage, which he knew would be of particular interest to Ford. Bom the 
year the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, Ford liked to contrast his 
industrial wage system with slavery (there was always a porous border between 
how he viewed the US South and the Amazon). And so did LaRue, who echoed 
a genre of reform writing common to the time, which opposed America's rural, 
impoverished southern states to the industrialized and prosperous north. 
Rubber tappers, he told Ford, were "worse off than slaves were in any decent 
slave-keeping country," since "slaves, like horses, had to be treated decently to 
make themprofitable." Cash, he explained, was practically never used to pay for 
rubber, as tappers handed over their latex to "some Syrian on the river" to pay 
off a previously advanced "grub-stake" — food, clothing, a rifle and ammunition, 
knives to tap the trees, or some other necessity of life. By Syrian, LaRue was 
referring broadly to the Arab and Jewish immigrants fromNorth Africa and the 
Levant who stepped in to take over a good part of the rubber trade after the 
economic collapse wiped out the larger Brazilian merchants. These traders 
advanced "lowest in quality merchandise at three to twenty times its retail 
value, while buying nuts and latexat well below market price. Thus the rubber 
tapper was "enslaved through debt," constantly "working to pay for produce 
he has already bought."- 

LaRue illustrated his point with this story: "A man brought about a hundred 
pounds ofBrazilnuts into a shop. The dealer threw them into a store room 
without even weighing them and asked the man what he wanted. He wanted 
some rope and took about thirty feet of smaller rope. Then he wanted some 
food. The buyer asked if he had any more nuts and said those he had brought 
only paid for the rope." And this : "A man brought rubber on board a launch . . . 
on which we were traveling. The rubber was in small balls strung on light sticks. 
The stick weighed not over five pounds, but the buyer docked the man about 
three dollars for the wood and tooktwo hides he had brought also, without 
allowing anything for them. The man protested and asked where his pay for the 
hides came in, but they were in the hold then, and the buyer merely shrugged 
his shoulders." 

"Instances such as these," LaRue told Ford, "could be found every day." 
Ford certainly recognized this system, not just because when he saw 
"Syrian" he probably read "Jew," but because he had confronted one like it 



back in Detroit, where "petty empires" run by ethnic bosses took advantage of 
the high wages Ford paid to immigrant workers , charging exorbitant amounts for 
apartments and retail goods. To free his employees from these mini-fiefdoms, 
Ford established a credit union, both to encourage savings and to make low- 
interest loans available so workers didn't have to go to an "outside Shylock for 
assistance." He also opened up factory phannacies and commissaries, which, 
unlike the infamous "company store" that kept workers perpetually indebted, 
provided employees a wide array of high-quality products at low prices, often 
below cost.- 

Debt slavery, LaRue wrote, left frontline Amazon workers uncared for and 
disposable. Most were uneducated and illiterate, living in "mere huts" thatched 
with palm leaves. "Dirt floors are universal and when dry are not so bad, but 
when wet with the leakage from the roof, are terrible." The workers went months 
without seeing other human beings, he said. "The loneliness is appalling." Beds 
or any kind of furniture were uncommon, and a "family is lucky if there are 
hammocks enough to go around"; most slept "two or three to a hammock." 
Children sold themselves to riverboats, "glad to work, like dogs for nothing but 
their food." 

LaRue told Ford that his team tried to give quinine to a man with malaria 
"almost in dying condition" only to have it snatched away by his creditor, who 
"laughed at the poor devil as he drove him back to work. It made our blood boil, 
but we were helpless." 

Above the traders stood Brazil's aristocratic elite, "young men of wealth" 
who lived in the Amazon's provincial cities, unconcerned with "bettering the 
condition of the forest people." Indeed, the very word upriver filled them with 
"dread." Here again LaRue's account seems finely tuned to Ford's fixations, for 
the cannakermust have imagined Belemto be the Amazon's version ofDetroh's 
Crosse Pointe, home to the pampered scions of inherited wealth — Ford called 
them "parasites" — untroubled in their manors and mansions by the problems of 
the world from which they profited. If the Amazon's urban rich were to brave the 
jungle's "terrors and discomforts," LaRue wrote, it would be to execute a 
programnot of reform but of exploitation. Most of the local elite occupied 
themselves with "dress and dissipation," a Brazilian variation of the trumpery - 
and-trinket consumerism Ford preached against at home, or with "politics," 
which for Ford was indistinguishable from corruption.- 



Native rubber-tapper family on the Tapajos, around the time of Col LaRue's trip . 

The real lords of the rubber trade, LaRue told his boss, were the foreign- 
owned export houses and financial firms, which were "utterly heartless toward 
their victims ." Because of their monopoly, they paid next to nothing to the 
traders who floated the latex downriver to Belem. Of these foreign interests, 
LaRue singled out the British as being particularly indifferent to the value of 
human life. Whether or not this was true, his charge of British callowness 
tapped into Ford's Anglophobia. LaRue's account was particularly resonant in 
the wake of the two -decade-old Putumayo scandal, which in 1907 exposed the 
profiting of a British rubber corporation from the enslavement, torture, 
starvation, murder, and rape of thousands of Amazonian Indians. These 
atrocities occurred much farther to the west, in the borderlands that separated 
Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia, but LaRue suggested that London's mercantile 
ruthlessness continued unabated on the Tapajos. British companies were 
sending "families up the Tapajos to collect rubber without any provision for 
their care and shelter whatever." When Ford's emissary inquired as to how 
these people, especially the children, would fare, a company representative 



cavalierly said, "Oh, none of these children will ever come back anyway. - 

LaRue ended his report with a prediction sure to arouse Ford's self-image as 
a man with the power to pull humanity from the brink: 'They will all die." 

A DECADE HAD passed since Ford's feud with Theodore Roosevelt over 
their competing visions of Americanism, and Ford seemed to be at the top of 
not only his industry but American, and therefore world, capitalism Yet as is 
often the case in the course of great empires, periods experienced as triumphs 
can be understood with the benefit of hindsight as quietly marking a change in 
fortune; 1927 was such a moment for Ford's motor company. 

At the end of that year, the company rolled out its Model A. The new car 
was a critical and commercial triumph, putting the company again in the 
forefront of its industry, taking over 45 percent of the market by the eve of the 
Great Depression. But in retrospect, the switchover forced Ford to revise a 
number of his most cherished beliefs. 

For years, Ford had ignored the advance of rivals like General Motors, led 
by Alfred Sloan, who cut into Model T sales by offering cars with shock 
absorbers, gas gauges, gearshifts, and speedometers. Ford believed his 
competitors' use of cheap credit and their yearly stylistic changes were 
perversions of the consumer society he had helped create. "We have lost our 
buying sense and fallen entirely under the spell of salesmanship," Ford said. 
"The American of a generation ago was a shrewd buyer. He knew values in 
terms of utility and dollars. But nowadays the American people seem to listen 
and be sold; that is, they do not buy. They are sold things; things are pushed 
on them" Cheap credit was distorting the market, he thought. "We have dotted 
lines for this, that and the other thing — all of them taking up income before it is 
earned." He remained committed — at times violently so — to his ideal of 
manufacturing one infinitely interchangeable product year after year. Once, 
while he was away on a trip to Europe, Ford's engineers made a number of style 
changes to the Model T, stretching it out a few inches and giving it a smoother 
ride. On his return. Ford circled the new model a few times and then proceeded 
to destroy it, ripping off its doors and shattering its windows before walking 
away. He repeated throughout the first months of 1927 that "the Ford car," sales 
of which by that point had plummeted to an all-time low, "will continue to be 
made the same way."- 

Until it wasn't. In reluctantly agreeing to abandon the car he had made for 
two decades and had built the River Rouge to make for two decades more, Ford 
accommodated himself to the new consumerism. Henceforth, he would have to 
leam how to satisfy the diverse tastes of consumers rather than lecture them 
about what their tastes should be. He began spending heavily on advertising, 



pitching yearly superficial style changes as part of his company's sales 
strategy. Ford also grudgingly accepted the fact that future sales growth was no 
longer based on driving the sales price of a new car as low as it would go 
— which only led to competition with America's growing stockof used cars 
— but on expanding the customer base for new automobiles through easy loans. 
So Ford established the Universal Credit Corporation, which allowed Americans 
to sign on the dotted line and purchase a new $550 Model A roadster for $150 
down and $12.50 a month. Yearly style changes also meant he had to abandon a 
cherished component of his village industry program: the policy that allowed 
factory workers to take off part of the year (usually May to August) to go farm 
When Ford was making the same car year in and year out, it was possible to 
overproduce parts and then stockpile themforuse during the months the 
worker would be in the field. But after 1927, workers had to stay at the factory 
year-round, as such stockpiling was no longer possible (the production of parts 
had to be closely calibrated to the rhythmof actual sales) and the assembly line 
had to be annually retooled to make the next year's model part.— 

The year 1927 also marked the completion of the River Rouge plant, hailed 
the world over as a monument to industrial modernism But it also meant the 
ascension of Harry Bennett and the complete defeat of the humane 
industrialism that for many, particularly those outside Detroit, Ford came to 
represent with his Five Dollar Day. Workers at Highland Park had already 
experienced both the speedup and increased coercion and surveillance. Yet 
those were nothing compared with the monstrous pace of the new factory. 

"Highland Park was civilized," said Walter Reuther, who as head of the 
United Auto Workers union was the man most responsible, years later, for 
ending Bennett's reign of terror, "but the Rouge was a jungle." With the 
transition to the Rouge also came the purging of a number of the company's 
best engineers and officials, often for no reason other than that they 
represented a threat to Bennett's power or because their intelligence and 
independence challenged Ford's autocracy. The firings were vicious and cruel, 
and most often carried out by Bennett himself. In a notable instance, Bennett 
asked Frank Kulick, a respected engineer who got on Ford's bad side for having 
suggested, a few years earlier, that the T be upgraded for more power, to take a 
look at a car that was supposedly making an odd noise. When Kulick climbed 
on the fender and bent his head under the hood, Bennett stepped on the gas 
and sped the car out the factory gates, swerving so that Kulick was thrown to 
the ground. Bennett then turned the car back into the factory yard and locked 
the gates, and the engineer was never allowed in again. Another twenty-year 
Ford man, driving with his family on vacation in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, 
was pulled over by a state trooper who relayed a message that his job was 



terminated. Ford repeatedly humiliated William Knudsen, the engineer credited 
with creating a network of Model T assembly plants around the world, pushing 
him to quit and take a job with GM, where he would turn its Chevrolet division 
into one of Ford's chief competitors. Ford felt Knudsen was too independent 
and too allied with his son Edsel, who was trying to modernize the company. "I 
let him go," Ford later admitted in a moment of candor, "not because he wasn't 
good, but because he was too good — for me."— 

The migration of the lion's share of production to the Rouge, Ford's purging 
of many of the men who made the T a world phenomenon, his growing 
dependence on Bennett and other thugs, his increasing resort to shop-floor 
intimidation, and his growing nativism coincided with a psychic turn inward. By 
1927, Ford was into the sixth decade of his life, and what was in the past taken 
as shy awkwardness had rigidified into fortresslike solitude, garrisoned by 
blasts of intense paranoia and cruelty, increasingly directed at his only son, 
whom he taunted and tormented mercilessly. Ford constantly embarrassed him 
in public, countennanding his initiatives and making it clear that while Edsel was 
nominally the company's president he had no real authority save that granted 
by his father. When Edsel, for instance, as part of his effort to rationalize the 
company's notoriously anarchic bookkeeping system, had a new office building 
constructed at the Rouge to house accountants, Henry vindictively abolished 
the Accounting Department. Increasingly, the kind of expansive goodwill on 
display for Consul de Lima was reserved exclusively for public relations 
spectacles. "The isolation of Henry Ford's mind is about as near perfect as it is 
possible to make it," was how Samuel Marquis, the minister who headed the 
Sociological Department in its early, benevolent years, described his aging 
former employer.— 

It was also in 1927 that Ford's anti-Semitism finally caught up with him 
Since 1924, the Dearborn Independent had focused much of its anti-Jewish 
venom against Aaron Sapiro, a lawyer and activist who had organized farm 
cooperatives throughout the United States and Canada. In Sapiro, Ford 
undoubtedly saw a competitor for the affections of fanners, someone who 
produced more tangible results in helping them obtain better prices for crops 
than any of Ford's many schemes could. "Jewish Exploitation of Fanners' 
Organization," ran the headline of the inaugural attack on Sapiro. "Monopoly 
Traps Operate under Guise of 'Marketing Associations.'" The organization, the 
article explained, was "bom in the fertile, fortune-seeking brain of a young Jew" 
— Sapiro. After suffering months of similar attacks, linking him to a broader 
conspiracy intent on subordinating American farms to Jewish money interests, 
Sapiro filed suit against Ford, claiming defamation and demanding a million 



dollars in damages. The press salivated at the idea of seeing Ford on the 
witness stand, hoping for a repeat of the kind of spectacle that occurred in 1919 
when Ford sued the Chicago Tribune for libel and gave the impression that he 
was illiterate. Ford had avoided the process server for weeks, until one day, 
while he was sitting in his car watching planes take off from Ford Field with his 
window rolled down, a summons dropped in his lap. The carmaker said that he 
would refuse to appear but finally settled on a March 31 court date after being 
threatened with legal action. In the week leading up to his scheduled testimony, 
thousands of people crowded the small Michigan courtroom in anticipation, 
while the New York Times issued a challenge: "If Mr. Ford is convinced, as he 
must be if he is an honest man, that the matter printed in the Dearborn 
Independent truthfully states an abhorrent and appalling menace to the people 
of the United States, it is hard to see how he can refrain" from using the 
publicity generated by the trial to paint "the danger in such colors before the 
eyes of this entire country, and in fact of the whole world, that the facts will be 
established beyond challenge." But if he didn't truly believe the threat was real, 
the Times continued, he needed to denounce the "race calumny" that had 
brought "pain and suffering" to "millions of American citizens." The trial 
offered Ford an unparalleled opportunity to clearly state his belief. "Will he 
seize it?" the paper asked. "Will he rise to it?"— 

He didn't. On the eve of his scheduled appearance, while driving home on 
Michigan Avenue, Ford claimed, he was sideswiped by a Studebaker and 
pushed off the side of the road. Many at the time, and a number of historians 
since, believe the accident, which sent him to the hospital but spared him his 
court date, to have been staged. His lawyer rescheduled his appearance, but in 
the end Ford settled out of court.— 

Ford also agreed to issue a statement apologizing for his anti-Semitism, 
written by Louis Marshall, head of the American Jewish Committee and one of 
Ford's chief critics. It was "pretty bad," said Harry Bennett, who tried to read 
Marshall's prepared text over the phone to his boss. "I don't care how bad it is, 
you just settle it up," Ford cut him off. The retraction was published worldwide 
on July 8, 1927, carried by Hearst newspapers, the International News, the 
Universal Service, the Associated Press, and the United Press news services: "I 
deem it to be my duty as an honorable man to make amends for the wrong done 
to the Jews as fellow-men and brothers, by asking their forgiveness for the harm 
that I have unintentionally committed, by retracting so far as lies within my 
power the offensive charges laid at their door." Later that year, Ford shuttered 
the Independent and sold off its presses.— 

It is in this context of domestic constraint, contraction, and compromise that 



Ford sought out a new space of freedom 



CHAPTER 7 

EVERYTHING JAKE 

AS IF TO CONFIRM THAT THE LOGIC PUSHING FORD TO THE 
AMAZON had moved beyond the laws of supply and demand, by the time Carl 
LaRne issued his report on the Tapajos valley, the economic rationale behind 
Ford's interest in rubber no longer held. Two years earlier, just after his lunch 
with Firestone, Ford was told by one of his men that high prices had stimulated 
rubber planting on such a large scale that the cost of latex was bound to fall. 
Also the Dutch were clearly not going to join the British cartel after all, which 
rendered Churchill's proposal toothless. It made more sense, Ford was advised, 
to forgo the plantation idea and just open a purchasing office in the Amazon. 
And sure enough, even before Ford gave the final go-ahead, world rubber 
prices began to tumble; soon the cost of latex would be substantially lower than 
it was in the 1910s.- 

Ford pressed forward. In June 1927, he assigned power of attorney to two of 
his employees, O. Z. Ide and W. L. Reeves Blakeley, and dispatched themto 
Brazil. The men were charged with negotiating a land concession with the 
governor of the state of Para, the jurisdiction where the property recommended 
by LaRue was located, and incorporating a subsidiary company under Brazilian 
law to oversee the plantation. 

IDEAND BLAKELEX both thirty-seven years old, and their wives traveled 
to New York by train in late June. If Ford thought himself an internationalist, his 
far-flung company provided him with a useful foreign service. For whatever 
mission, his agents could rely on Ford dealers to organize the trip, establish 
contacts, arrange accommodations, and provide transportation — a Lincoln if 
status warranted, otherwise a Model T or A. 

In Manhattan, the Dearborn emissaries were shepherded around in a 
"Lincoln car" by "Mr. Leahr, of the branch," who helped themobtain their visas 
and prepare for their departure on the British Booth Line's SS Cuthbert. The 
two couples took in the city and enjoyed a few meals, including one at the 
Waldorf-Astoria. They also caught Oscar Hammerstein's Desert Song at the 
Casino Theater, the story of a French general sent to Morocco to suppress an 
anticolonialArab uprising led by the mysterious "Red Shadow," who turns out 
to be the general's son. Ide wrote in his diaiy that it was "as pretty and 



interesting an operette as I have ever seen." 

He was enjoying himself. But just before setting sail he got a sense of his 
partner's temperament and what he saw didn't bode well for the success of their 
charge. Blakeley got "hot" when shown his sleeping quarters. They weren't up 
to his standards, he said, and he threatened to call the whole trip off. Blakeley, 
of course, didn't have the power to do anything of the kind, but he did bully 
the captain to move a ship officer out of his stateroom Placated, Blakeley and 
his wife boarded the ship. 

On the Cuthbert, Ide eyed Blakeley warily, yet the two-week cruise to Belem 
was uneventful. Blakeley had already been sent to Brazil once before by Ford, 
on a trip where he had met Jorge Mllares. But it was Ide's first sea voyage, and 
as the ship pulled away fromthe Brooklyn dockand sailed out ofthe Narrows, 
he wistfully noted the "filigree of Coney Island and Atlantic City." He brought a 
dictionary with him and tried to leam Portuguese, but his interest soon waned. 
Ide's "flesh and spirit" proved "a bit too weak to overcome the blissful lethargy 
and temptation to do nothing." He surrendered to an endless bridge game, and 
within a few days the ship's passengers, with the conventions of shore life 
behind them, gave up wearing their coats and neckties. 

On July 7, the Cuthbert entered the Baia de Marajo, one of the Amazon's 
many mouths, so enormous that land was not sighted until the eighth. Roughly 
four thousand miles long and beginning just a sliver east ofthe Pacific Ocean, 
the Amazon is the largest river systemin the world, comprising about 15 percent 
of all the earth's river water. The Mississippi discharges 41 percent ofthe 
runoff of the continental United States, but the Amazon expels twelve times as 
much — fifty-seven million gallons of water per second. Oceangoing vessels can 
travel deep into it, as far west as Iquitos in Peru. 

Like the Mississippi, the Amazon and its tributaries have been worked on 
over the centuries. Man-made canals and footpaths have transfonned nature's 
baroque into human rococo, weaving an already bedazzling ecology of 
waterways into an even more intricate set of nested trading systems, 
connecting nine (of thirteen) South American countries — Brazil, "Venezuela, 
Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana — and, 
via \enezuela's Orinoco River, numerous Caribbean nations. Retaining walls 
protect settlements fromthe tides and seasons, as do dams, which permit the 



drying of wetlands and seasonal floodplains. Dredges keep sediment from 
building up around ports and buoy lights guide ships, especially during low 
water. But the Mississippi is truly an industrial river; its stepped locks, levees, 
dikes, dams, navigation signals, and excavated channels make it the most 
managed and manipulated water systemin the world. In contrast, the Amazon, 
despite its grandeur, is — as it was at the time of Ide and Blakeley's arrival — an 
artisanal river. Its pilots rely on a lifetime of experience and skill to navigate 
shifting bars, fast-changing depths, and a powerful tidal bore that could travel 
inland from the Atlantic, rushing "up the river in a sheer wall with a rumble like a 
regiment of light artillery on the stampede" as far as ten miles, raising the largest 
of ships and leaving themaground on its recession. And unlike the delta of the 
Mississippi, which over the last two centuries has been reduced froma 
patchwork of barely navigable bayous, islands, shifting sandbars, and estuaries 
into a rationalized sluice, the Amazon's terminus remains democratic, with many 
metamorphosing paths in and out.- 

ONEOF THE calmest entry points in terms ofthe tides, and thus the most 
trafficked, is the Baia de Marajo, along with the smaller Baia de Guajara, which 
gives way to a water channel that connects inland to the Amazon proper. On the 
southeastern shores of the Guajara presides Nossa Senhora de Belem — Our 
Lady of Bethlehem As the Cuthbert closed on the city, the shimmering 
constant green ofthe dense jungle gave way to red tile roofs and blue- and 
cream-colored walls. Though the rubber boomhad ended more than a decade 
earlier, the port was still busy. The harbor was crowded with many different 
kinds of ships, from single-masted canoelike sailboats, called vigilengas, and 
flat-bottombarges that served as floating markets, filled with fish, turtles, birds, 
vegetables, and fruit, to ocean liners bound from Portugal or New Orleans to 
Iquitos or Manaus, cities that, like Belem, had flourished during the boom but 
had since lost much of their shine. The most distinctive vessels were the 
multileveled steamboats, known as gaiolas, "birdcages," whose hammock-lined 
bowed decks made it seemas if they were sagging in the middle. 

Everything felt "strange and new," Ide thought, as the Ford party 
transferred to a small government launch to take them to shore. The entourage 
proceeded to a long stone water waft, above which worked cranes, winches, 
steam trolleys, and stevedores. Along the quay sat a line of metal-roofed brick 



cargo warehouses flanked by the customs building, and terminals for the major 
shipping companies, like the Booth Line. To the right of the warehouses was 
the city's fish market — known as ver-o-peso, or "check-the-weight" — a green 
metal and concrete cavern, its four-comered ornate turrets a reminder of the 
city's military origins . Inside, mongers working over makeshift butcher blocks 
sliced fromAmazonian hardwood trees sold an array of the river's harvest, 
including incalculable variations of catfish. Farther back from the water stood a 
row of three-storied export houses, shops, and merchant homes, behind which, 
on Rua Gaspar Mana, the Ford Motor Company would open an office to 
coordinate the arrival of cargo fromDearborn and the hiring of laborers. 

On shore to greet the Ford delegation was John Minter, the American 
consul, and Gordon Pickerell, a local Ford dealer who had himself just retired 
froma thirteen-year run as US consul. Also present was Jorge Wares, whom 
Blakeley greeted warmly, which Ide thought peculiar since he didn't recall his 
partner's mentioning any contacts on his previous trip other than Pickerell and 
Minter. Blakeley made the introductions, yet he did so in an awkward way, only 
mumbling Villares 's name. 

The sun glared and the heat felt intense as the Dearborn emissaries left the 
dock, turning onto the broad Boulevard of the Republic, which took them to 
their hotel. Ide had never traveled much beyond Michigan, so he took care to 
record his impressions of his arrival in Belemin a diary. They passed shops 
selling turtle shells, baskets, snake skins, parrots, rronkeys, and "strange birds 
of beautiful plumage." The streets were filled with "handsome dark men in white 
suits, strikingly pretty girls of doubtful cast, probably half breed," and "niggers 
or natives with great loads on their heads ." The nidwestern Ide thought the 
architecture "odd," akrost "oriental or Mexican," by which he was probably 
referring to the glazed bluish tiles that adorned the faces of many of Belem's 
best buildings . He recognized the buzzards , though, that flew high over the city. 
They reminded himof Detroit pigeons. And the potholes that filled the streets 
made him thinkof Detroit's notoriously bumpy Gratiot Avenue. 

AS IN ANYdiplomatic corps, divisions and rivalries at the home office 
played out abroad. Since its founding, the Ford Motor Company was famed for 
its factionalism, which created competing spheres of loyalty among employees. 
Henry Ford's delegating yet incorrigibly controlling and manipulating managing 



style aggravated the divisions, as did his reliance on men with strong 
personalities and even stronger egos. The company's most famous schism 
— described by historians as Shakespearean — was between Edsel, Ford's only 
child, and Harry Bennett, the head of Ford's Service Department. 

Edsel, just twenty-six when his father made him the nominal president of the 
company in 1919, and Fiarry were polar opposites. Bennett, about the same age 
as Edsel, was a thug with organi2ed crime connections and a reputation for 
getting into fistfights — during his boxing days in the navy he fought under the 
name Sailor Reese — car chases, and gun battles, stories of which delighted 
Henry. Ford "liked the look of the man — the colored silk shirts, the Western belt 
buckle, and the snap-brim felt hat. He liked the Damon Runyonesque quality 
— the fact that Bennett had real experience in a masculine world." And he liked 
his loyalty. "If Mr. Ford told me to blacken out the sun tomorrow," Bennett once 
said, "I night have trouble fixing it. But you'd see a hundred thousand sons-of- 
bitches coming through the Rouge gates in the morning all wearing dark 
glasses ."- 

In contrast, Edsel, interested in the aesthetics of industrial design and 
modern art, forever disappointed his father, though many now credit him with 
holding the company together through the twenties and thirties. "Where Edsel 
was gentle," the historian Thomas Bons all remarks, "Henry saw weakness. 
Where Edsel was imaginative, Henry saw frivolity." If Bennett ruled the factory 
floor as if industry were an extension of the Wild West, Edsel with his "martyr's 
smile" quietly worked to bring professionalismto the company, to mitigate not 
just Bennett's violence but the arbitrariness that governed Ford's labor 
relations. Much to his father's contempt, he even admired Franklin Delano 
Roosevelt and moved to accommodate the company to the New Deal. During 
the 1930s, Henry would come to despise FDR not just for being a member of 
the East Coast elite (and Theodore Roosevelt's cousin) and for supporting 
legislation making it easier for unions to organi2e. Roosevelt's New Deal, which 
extended the power of government to regulate industry, in effect directly 
competed with Ford's decentralization and village industry program for how 
best to tame capitalism It was, for example, FDR's Tennessee Valley Authority, 
largely a nationalization of Ford's Muscle Shoals proposal, that would bring 
electricity and jobs to the poor farmers of lower Appalachia.- 



Of the two men, Henry didn't hide whomhe preferred. Not only did he do 
nothing to douse the fires that burned between Bennett and Edsel, he fanned 
them The elder Ford backed Bennett in his fights with Edsel in a way to 
encourage jealousy, while telling Bennett, at any sign of rapprochement, "Harry, 
you thinkyou're getting along with Edsel, but he's no friend of yours." Once, 
while Edsel was in the process of having a new row of coke ovens built at the 
Rouge's foundry, Ford told Bennett, "Harry, as soon as Edsel gets those ovens 
built I'm going to tear them down." And he did.— 

WILLIS LONG REEVES Blakeley was a Bennett man, and he acted it. Bom in 
1890 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Blakeley, after serving in World War I, joined 
the march of migrants up the Ohio Wley to the factories of the Midwest, and he 
found a job in Bennett's Service Department as an assistant employment 
manager. On the Cuthbert, he tried to boss Ide around, peacocking like a "big 
shot" and telling everybody on the boat about their mission even though Henry 
Ford himself insisted that "this thing should be kept secret until we got well 
into it."£ 

Blakeley took well to Belem, which combined the grandeur of an old colonial 
city, energi2ed by rubber riches and then exhausted by their evaporation, with 
the ribald pleasures of a boomtown, still considerable despite the economy's 
collapse. Its architecture might have been European, but its soul was New 
World frontier. The writer Jose Maria Ferreira de Castro, around the time of 
Blakeley and Ide's visit, called the city the "Mecca of the world's harlotry," its 
brothels filled with Parisian and Eastern European courtesans. Much of the 
wealth that could be pulled out of the Amazon passed through its port, and it 
attracted adventurers and fortune seekers fromthe world over. They gravitated 
toward one another, frequenting the same casinos, bars, and brothels. 

Blakeley quickly gained a reputation among the rogues and expatriates as a 
drunkard and an exhibitionist. He stayed in the best comer suite on the second 
floor of the Grande Hotel, Belem's finest, with a veranda and floor-to-ceiling 
windows, the shutters of which he left open as he walked around naked and 
made love to his wife. The hotel, since demolished, was located on the city's 
central plaza, and Blakeley's roomfaced the majestic Theatro da Paz, where the 
city's gentry promenaded every evening, coiffed and bedecked in formal wear. 
"Everyone on the street could see," complained the hotel manager to Ide. To 



make matters worse, Blakeley 's window was just above a major taxi stand, and 
the drivers circulated gossip about the scandalous behavior of the Ford man 
throughout the city. "It's the talk of the town," said the manager, who tried 
unsuccessfully to evict Blakeley .— 

like his boss, Bennett, who as his power grew in Dearborn brokered 
contracts with outside suppliers in which he received healthy kickbacks, 
Blakeley saw a convergence between his interests and those of the company. 
He began to work on a plan with Consul Minter in which as Ford's 
representative he would buy bonds issued by Para's deeply indebted state 
treasury, with the idea that their value would soar once word got out that Ford 
had committed to investing in a rubber plantation. Minter told his superiors in 
the Department of State that he thought it a win-win-win proposition: "taking 
over the bonds at or near their recent quotation would not only mean ultimate 
profit to the Ford Motor Company" but also entrench the company more 
"solidly in this state, increasing its prestige and power therein." This, in turn, 
would please the Brazilians, who, Minter believed, "would prefer to have the 
state developed by American capital than by British."- It is doubtful that 
Dearborn would have approved of any transaction that might have exposed the 
company to charges of engaging in speculation. And given Henry Ford's well- 
known aversion to finance capital, it's likely that the bond scheme was wholly 
initiated by Blakeley. In any case, the State Department quickly nixed the idea, 
instructing Minter to "strictly confine" his activities on behalf of Ford's 
representatives to the provision of statistical information, "without comment or 
advice.' - 

IDE, OROZ as he was called (O. Z. was his complete first name), worked in 
Ford's legal division, a branch of the company loyal to Edsel and considered a 
bastion of professionalism Taciturn where Blakeley was brazen, the lawyer at 
first didn't pick up on why his partner was acting so strange on the dock when 
he introduced him to Consul Minter and the Ford dealer Pickerell. But then he 
realized it was because Blakeley was trying to hide fromthemthe fact that Ide 
also worked for Ford. "They thought I was just someone he had met on the 
boat," remembered an irritated Ide. He didn't make much of it until later that 
night, when he learned that Blakeley had kept himfrombeing invited to a 
reception at the consul's house. Mllares, too, was a mystery. Ide had never 



heard mention of Blakeley's elegant friend, who, since meeting themon their 
arrival, was always around, offering his services as interpreter and general 
liaison and seeming to know more about the mission than Ide himself did. 

Ide, of course, was unaware of the role Schurz and Mllares had played, with 
an assist fromLaRue, in pushing the idea that a specific strip of land along the 
right bank of the Tapajos River was the best place to grow rubber, though he 
quickly identified Mllares as an "opportunist" who had managed to obtain an 
option on that land. Whatever his opinion, Ide had little choice but to cooperate 
with his colleagues. He could try to work around them by enlisting Consul 
Minter, but Henry Ford didn't want the US government to know of his affairs, 
much less participate in them He could try to negotiate an agreement with the 
governor on his own, but having spent his time on the Cuthbert playing bridge 
instead of learning Portuguese, Ide was lost in the local language. That left the 
ubiquitous Mllares, whomlde eventually came to like. He even later defended 
the Brazilian, believing that the money he and his partners would make was 
simply the price of doing business. "Between them," he recalled, "they had to 
pay off the Governor and the other political boy s who had something coming to 
them." 

Despite these machinations or, as Ide soon realized, because of them, 
discussions went smoothly with Brazilian officials. Mllares, Blakeley, and Ide 
met with Governor Dionysio Bentes — the man who granted to Mllares, Schurz, 
and Greite the option to the land in question — to begin negotiations. There 
wasn't much to negotiate. Bowing, nodding, and smiling to bridge the language 
gap, Bentes told the men they could have anything Ford wanted. The 
concession required approval by the state legislature, but that, he assured them, 
was a formality. He then sent the delegation off, as Ide remembered, to "prepare 
a bill to be presented to the legislature, setting forth in this petition exactly what 
we wanted."— 

One of the first things they needed to do was draw up a legal description of 
the designated property. For this, they went to the mayor of Belem, Antonio 
Castro, who Ide thought looked "kind of like a monkey." Castro was already 
promised some money by Mllares, but he was happy to offer his services as a 
civil engineer for an additional fee. 

Ide had not been to the property — it was a six-day boat ride from Belem But 



in his meeting with Castro he unfolded a map of the Tapajos valley and with a 
heavy black pencil traced out a s eventy-five-mile line up the river, then inland 
seventy-five miles, then another line parallel to the first, and then finally back to 
the starting point. A total of 5,625 square miles. 

That's an ''awful lot of land," exclaimed the surprised mayor. "That's not 
your problem," Ide shot back "I just want you to give us a description."— 

Next on the agenda was to sit down with Samuel McDowell, the local Ford 
dealership's lawyer, to hash out the terms of the contract. On a "yellow tablet" 
Ide, Blakeley, and Wares wrote "just what we wanted in the bill that was going 
to the legislature." They had only vague instructions fromDearborn, so they 
asked for everything they could think of: the right to exploit the land's lumber 
and mineral reserves, the right to build railroads and airfields, to erect any kind 
of building without government supervision, establish banks, organize a private 
police force, run schools, draw power from waterfalls, and "dam up the river in 
any way we needed to." They exempted the company from export taxes, not just 
on rubber and latexbut on any products and resources the plantation would 
want to ship abroad: "skins and hides, oiL seeds, timbers, and other products 
and articles of any nature." "We thought of a lot of things there that we had 
never heard of before," said Ide, and "as we got into it, we'd think of these 
things and put them in."— 

In return forBentes's generosity, Ford's negotiators obligated the company 
only to plant a thousand acres of the grant with rubber within a year. They did 
this to preserve the "symmetry and equilibrium" of the contract and to provide 
a show of good faith that Ford really did intend to cultivate rubber and not just 
mine the land for gold or drill for oil. Blakeley assumed that he would be named 
manager of the estate and that he could easily clear and plant as much as three 
thousand acres within a few months. McDowell then "dressed the contract up 
in the proper language" and had it translated into Portuguese. When the team 
passed it along to Governor Bentes, they expected him to balk at some of the 
requests. But the governor presented the bill to the legislature with nary a 
comment, complete with everything asked for by the Ford team. "Much more," 
wrote Ide, "than we hoped to get."— 

All told, the state of Para ceded Ford just under 2.5 million acres, a bit less 
than what the Dearborn lawyer sketched out on the map but, at close to the size 



of Connecticut, still a vast dispensation. Half of this was from the Wares claim, 
for which Ford was to pay $125,000, a pittance considering the company's 
enormous wealth. Public land covered the other half, which Ford received for 
free.M 

As they waited for the legislature to ratify the deal, Ide took care of 
unfinished business . He and McDowell incorporated the Companhia Ford 
Industrial do Brasil as the legal owner of what quickly came to be called 
Fordlandia — the Portuguese word forFordville. Then he and Blakeley sailed to 
Rio to work out the terms of the tariffs the company would pay to import 
material and machinery. At the time, Brazil's constitution was a model of 
"extreme federalism" that invested in state governors the power to grant the 
kind of generous concessions Bentes gave to Ford. Import duties, however, fell 
within the national government's jurisdiction. But before Ide had a chance to 
conclude his negotiations with federal officials, he was called back to Belem So 
he left Blakeley to wrap things up. When Blakeley returned to the Amazon, he 
claimed to have obtained from the federal government a deal that "everyone 
said impossible" — that is, the right to import all machinery and goods 
completely free of customs duties. As it turned out, "everyone" was right. He 
received nothing of the kind.— 

But the problems caused by Blakeley's overconfidence lay in the future. 
Back in Belem, things were moving along nicely. Bentes was as good as his 
word, and the state legislature, on September 30, 1927, ratified the concession 
exactly as the Ford men composed it. It took under three months to negotiate 
and finalize the deal, a far cry from the fruitless years wasted on trying to get the 
US Congress to approve Ford's Muscle Shoals project. 

With his work finished, Ide made arrangements to return home. He wired his 
wife, who, not having fared well in Belem's heat, had left for the United States a 
few weeks earlier: "Every thing jake sailing on Hubert tonight love Oz." 

He also telegrammed Dearborn, urging the noire office to compensate 
Wares: "I am thoroughly sold on Wares, both as to his professional 
knowledge of tropical horticulture and ability and also as to his reliability and 
honesty." 

For his part, Wares, eager to pay off Greite, Schurz, Bentes, and the other 
"political boys" who made the deal possible, followed up with his own cable. 



"Great joy enthusiasmamong people," he wrote. "Send funds."— 



CHAPTER 8 

WHEN FORD COMES 

O. Z. IDE RETURNED TO DEARBORN TO DEBRIEF COMPANYOFFIcials . 
He tried to warn Edsel and Henry Ford about Harry Bennett's protege, 
complaining of Reeves Blakeley's exhibitionism and other rough behavior while 
in Belem Yet Henry Ford, with the same leniency and perhaps fondness he had 
for Bennett — who just then was increasing his cruelty on the factory floor as 
well as solidifying his influence over his boss — nonetheless decided to tap 
Blakeley to head the plantation. Along with a number of other Ford employees, 
including John R. Rogge, a lumberjack from the Upper Peninsula, and Curtis 
Pringle, the former sheriff of Kalamazoo, Blakeley returned to the Amazon in 
early 1928 to begin work and prepare for the arrival of two Ford-owned cargo 
ships containing heavy equipment and other material needed to establish a 
small city. 

In Belem, the advance team was joined by Jorge Mllares, who for a few 
months after the concession was ratified enjoyed a good reputation in 
Dearborn. Blakeley and Mllares formed an unlikely partnership. The Ford man 
was arrogant and filled with purposeful energy, the Brazilian fretfully effete. Yet 
their shared sense of confidence papered over these differences in style. 
Blakeley bought a launch and the expedition set out up the Amazon, stopping in 
the town of Santarem, at the mouth of the Tapajos. After purchasing provisions 
and hiring a work crew of twenty-five laborers, the group pushed off from the 
town's pier, towing a thatch-roofed barge that served as a makeshift kitchen for 
Tong, a Chinese cook, and his assistant, Ego, and headed up the Tapajos River, 
to found Fordlandia. 

Blakeley and Mllares had already selected the site for the new settlement, a 
village named Boa Msta, which means pleasant view in Portuguese, based on 
their reconnaissance ofthe area during Blakeley's previous trip to the Amazon. 
It sat 650 miles from Belem and about 100 from Santarem, at a point where the 
river stayed deep right to the shore, which would save on dredging expenses 
and allow the unloading of heavy equipment. The bank quickly rose fifty feet 
within a hundred yards ofthe river, continuing to climb another two hundred 
feet over the course ofthe next mile. 

It was a providential location high enough to afford protection from 



mosquitoes and other insects, Blakeley insisted in his report to Dearborn, 
though he consulted no entomologist to support his claim. And it was rich in 
trees and resources. One could find about twenty exportable trees on any given 
acre, he said, including the redwood massaranduba, a dark reddish brown 
heartwood called angelim, and Spanish cedar, in addition to old-growth wild 
rubber trees. There was, Blakeley believed, a strong possibility that they would 
find oil, along with gold, silver, platinum, ores, and possibly diamonds. The 
Cupary River, a tributary of the Tapajos that ran twenty miles into the estate, 
would be, Blakeley said, a perfect spot for a hydroelectric dam And until the 
planted rubber matured to produce sap — which takes about five years — a 
number of company outposts could easily be established at key points to buy 
wild rubber. Blakeley told Ford that the Tapajos valley produced fifteen hundred 
tons of latexa year and it would be relatively easy to "capture all of that." With 
fail' treatment and higherprices, the river's tappers would happily abandon their 
"Syrian patrons" and sell their rubber to Ford's agents.- 

But before Blakeley, Mllares, and their crew could start work in Boa Msta, 
they needed to sort out competing claims to the land along the riverbank where 
they wanted to base their operation. When O. Z. Ide was researching the 
Amazon's property registry during the concession's negotiation, he noticed 
that there existed a few hundred deeded lots within the boundaries of the land 
granted to Ford. About seventy-five or so families lived along the bank of the 
Tapajos River, another fifty up the Cupary River, and more scattered throughout 
the estate, mostly rubber tappers who worked a trail or two. Some had title to 
their land, but many paid rent to local merchants who held the deed, like the 
Franco family, who lived just across the Tapajos, orthe Cohen family, just 
downriver in the small town of Boim. Most were descendants of boom-time 
migrants who settled in the area during the height of the rubber trade. They 
were generally known as caboclos, or "copper-colored," the termused to refer 
to the rural poor of mixed ancestry, a blend of Portuguese, Native American, and 
African. Also scattered throughout Ford's two and a half million acres were a 
number of small communities of Tupi-speaking people, who hunted and 
gathered, fanned and fished, living on cassava and other jungle fruits. "I met 
Indians there," John Rogge, the lumberjack on Blakeley 's advance team, wrote 
home to the Upper Peninsula, "and ate everything but monkey meat."- 



Ide wasn't too concerned. They were "just squatters," he thought, who 
lived in little shacks on "very, very small patches of land along the river. If 
anybody had any property right where we were going to clear," their land would 
just be purchased and they would be moved somewhere else. Back in Dearborn, 
Ernest liebold agreed, thinking they were just "some native tribes" that didn't 
"stay in one place very long." Ide decided the best thing to do was to "forget 
about those fellows" until operations were under way, and he wrote into the 
Bentes contract a clause that would allow Ford to buy title to any property 
within the boundaries of the concession.- 

It was hard, though, to "forget about" the Franco family, since they owned 
the entire village of Boa Vista. They were descendants of Alberto Jose da Silva 
Franco, a Portuguese migrant who a century earlier had been one of the region's 
most prosperous rubber traders. How Franco came to the Tapajos is bound up 
in one of the most brutal chapters in Amazonian history. 

ALBERTO FRANCO ARRIVED in the Amazon fromlisbon in the early 
nineteenth century, wealthy but not enough to enter into Belem's elite 
hisitana — the prosperous Portuguese class that controlled the city during the 
colonial period. So he settled in provincial Santarem, establishing himself as a 
slave-owning merchant. But he was soon on the move again, in flight fromfhe 
Cabanagem Revolt, or the War of the Cabanas, Brazil's bloodiest uprising.- 

The rebellion broke out in 1835, when thousands of mestizos, mulattos, 
Africans, and Indians marched on Belem, which before it would be celebrated 
for its tropical BeauxArts buildings and boulevards was associated with 
another French tradition: revolution. The ranks of the insurgents came from the 
city's majority destitute residents, who lived in the adobe and wood-planked 
hovels, cabanas, which gave the rebellion its name. The red-shirted rebels 
declared the city independent and ran it for a year, emptying prisons, outlawing 
forced labor of all kind, distributing the wealth of merchants, setting up a 
communal food distribution system, and terrorizing landlords and merchants, 
especially if they were Portuguese. Beneficiaries of what a Prussian prince then 
touring the region called "the fruits of ceaseless oppression," the Portuguese 
were known by a set of regionally specific derogatory names, including caiado 
("chalk skin") and caramuru ("fish face"). The white-faced cebus monkey was 
popularly known as the macaco portugues. The British navy helped Brazil's 



newly independent federal government blockade the city, yet it still took troops 
more than a year to retake Belem The insurgents were finally forced to give up 
the city, but the rebellion spread throughout the vast interior, as far west as 
Manaus and deep into the Amazon's many tributaries, including the Tapajos.- 

Martial law was declared throughout the lower Amazon, and soldiers hunted 
down the revolutionaries, now joined by rural African and indigenous slaves, 
with a vengeance that made the violence against the Portuguese pale in 
comparison. Troops engaged in mass drownings and mass shootings, 
festooning themselves with rosaries made of the strung-together ears of the 
executed. Insurgents occupied Santaremin 1836 for a few months but 
eventually retreated up the Tapajos, which became the scene of the rebellion's 
drawn-out final stage. For five years, the rebels engaged in a rearguard hit-and- 
run guerrilla war with federal troops before finally s urrendering, at a trading post 
just upriver from where Ford would found his settlement. As many as 30,000 out 
of a regional population of 120,000 were killed, most of them at the hands of 
government soldiers. 

The Cabanagem uprising and its repression had a lasting effect on the 
valley. As historian Barbara Weinstein writes, the violence weakened the control 
of white Portuguese elites over the rural population. Runaway slaves deserted 
plantations en masse, founding fugitive communities throughout the forest. But 
the breakdown of social relations also allowed provincial merchants and traders 
to fill the vacuum, especially once federal troops got the upper hand against the 
rebels. These new regional elites leveraged the assault on Portuguese power to 
set up trading outposts and claim large parcels of jungle land, laying the 
foundation for the impending rubber boom Once established, they began to 
resort to a variety of mechanisms to erode the autonomy of peasant 
communities. Para's government passed vagrancy laws aimed directly at driving 
smallholders who didn't have deeds to their property into debt to merchants. 
Indigenous communities were particularly hard-hit, and many soon found 
themselves on the edge of cultural and often physical extinction, having 
suffered slave raids, tribal dispersal, and forced relocation. Men were 
conscripted as tappers and boatmen, while women were forced into domestic 
service or into concubinage. Survivors sought refuge deep in the jungle, 
leaving the Tapajos 's main trunk and tributaries to the poor migrant families that 



came fromBrazirs impoverished northeast — the forebears of the unfortunates 
so graphically described by LaRue.- 

Memories of the rebellion lingered for decades. In 1866, the conservationist 
and poet George Washington Sears, more famous for his descriptions of canoe 
trips through the Adirondacks, traveled up the Amazon and spoke with rebel 
survivors. Having grown up among Native Americans in upstate New York and 
himself having just fought for the Union in the Civil War, Sears was moved by 
their stories to write an ode to the insurrection. The historical precision of "Tupi 
Larrent" is haunting, capturing the rueful pride in having staged the revolt but 
also the shame of defeat and sexual subjection that underwrote what 
Amazonian scholar Susanna Hecht has called "terror slavery": 

We sing the noble dead to-night 

Who sleep in jungle covered graves. 

We sing the brave who fell in fight 

Beside the Amazona's waves, 

The white man counts us with his beasts, 

And makes our girls the slaves of priests. 

Woe, woe for the Cabano! 



We swept their forces at Para, 

But English ships were on the waves. 

And still our girls are serfs and slaves. 

Woe, woe, for the Cabano! 

We drove them from the Tocantins, 

We swept them from the Tapajoz. 

A feeble race with feeble means, 

Our courage conquered all our foes . 



We were a fierce avenging flood 
That no Brazilian force could stem 
We reddened all their towns with blood, 
FromOnca's isle to Santarem, 
But ah, our best are in their graves 
And we again are serfs and slaves ! 



Woe, woe, for the Cabano!- 

FAMILYLORE SAYS that Alberto Jose da Silva Franco, along with his wife, 
his children, and a handful of loyal slaves, barely escaped Santarem, fleeing up 
the Tapajos . After nearly a week paddling on the river, as they took shelter from 
a storm in a marshy inlet of a large island named Urucurituba, a bass jumped out 
of the river and into the boat, which Alberto Jose took as a divine sign that the 
island was where his family should stake their new life. The revolt was still 
roiling the valley. Just a year after his landing on Urucurituba, insurgents 
slaughtered forty residents of the village of Aveiros, an hour downriver, on the 
opposite bank. So the Francos kept a low profile, building a small house with an 
adjacent chapel to Saint Peter, whomAlberto Jose designated as the island's 
patron. Once the insurrection was put down, Alberto Jose began to spread out, 
soon becoming one of the Tapajos's most important landlords and merchants, 
well placed to profit from the pacification of the valley and increas ing mbber 
trade. He registered the island, as well as land on both banks of the river, in his 
name and planted sugar to distill and sell cachaga. The rum was valuable not 
just as a tradable product but for its effectiveness in weakening the will of those 
who tried to hold out against falling into debt. He also built a statelier Casa 
Grande, a hacienda. The new house had six airy rooms, one consecrated as a 
chapel to Saint Peter, right next to the office where rubber was weighed and debt 
recorded, and a twelve-posted terracotta-tiled veranda that ran along the entire 
length of its front. Where his first modest home was set in an inconspicuous 
cove, this one was built on a prominent knoll, framed by a row of grand Havana 
palms. When he died, he left Urucurituba, along with his other holdings, 
including Boa Vista, opposite the island on the Tapajos's right bank, to his 
many sons.- 

Alberto Jose's great-grandson, Eimar Franco, is still alive, and he remembers 
the coming of Ford to the Tapajos as "provoking a tme revolution up and down 
the valley." He was seven years old in 1928 and had only twice traveled beyond 
Santarem, when "all of a sudden modern boats were plying the river in all 
directions and immense tractors were roaring day and night, digging up the dirt, 
pulling down trees, opening roads," he says. On "our side of the river we were 
still living like our ancestors did, with a few alterations." Eimar's memories 
accord with those of David Riker, who was just a boy when his Baptist father, 



along with other Confederate "cavaliers" and "roughs" who preferred exile 
rather than submission to the terms of Appomattox, settled near Santarem after 
the Civil War. Riker described the coming of Ford as shaking the Tapajos "to its 
foundations." It was like a "blood transfusion," he said, jolting alive a moribund 
economy with an injection of money, electricity, and internal combustion 
engines in a region that still relied mostly on barter, debt, and wood-burning 
steamboats to circulate goods and people. Nearly overnight there was a cash 
"market for anything negotiable.' - 

One thing that had not been negotiable for a long time was land, as its value 
had plummeted to almost nothing in the trail of the rubber bust. But as Blakeley 
and Mllares pitched camp and began preliminary clearing, Henry Ford sent a 
trusted accountant (he didn't trust too many accountants), James Kennedy, up 
the Tapajos with a satchel of cash to buy whatever land Blakeley indicated was 
necessary to advance operations . And since the Francos had fallen on hard 
times with the collapse of rubber, they welcomed not just the cash Ford's 
accountant was offering but the possibility of making money by provisioning 
the work camp. 

As in Muscle Shoals and the Florida Everglades, wherever Ford or his 
company went, or was believed to be going, land prices skyrocketed and 
speculators bought up property to resell at jacked-up prices. When word got 
out in Iron Mountain, Michigan, that Ford was opening a sawmill, rents jumped 
fromfrfteen dollars a month to fifty-five and the prices of houses increased 
threefold. Boa Msta's value just a few months earlier was negligible, but now, in 
1928, the Ford Motor Company was buying it in cash for four thousand 
dollars i2 

The sale took place on Urucurituba, in the first modest house built by 
Alberto Jose ninety years earlier. James Kennedy, along with his satchel, arrived 
on the island, accompanied by a notary to officiate the sale and David Riker to 
interpret the proceedings. Helping foreigners get by on the Tapajos had become 
something of a tradition for the Confederates and their descendants; a half 
century earlier, David's father had lent a hand to down-on-his-luck Henry 
Wickham, just before Wickham lighted out for London with the seeds that 
would doomthe Brazilian rubber trade. A large crowd of Urucurituba's residents 
— the equivalent of sharecroppers, who paid the Francos rent in rubber and 



other jungle products — gathered around the house, which stood next to the 
already crumbling chapel of Saint Peter. "An almost religious silence" fell over 
the assembly as the notary began to recite the terms of the transaction froman 
"enormous book." When the reading was finished, Kennedy opened his bag 
and handed the money to Eimar's father, Francisco. Francisco was standing 
proxy for his young nephew, Luiz, who had just inherited Boa \ista fromhis 
father. The boy looked on wide-eyed as his uncle counted out the bills, one by 
one, on the dining roomtable. When Francisco finished the tally, he handed the 
money to a trembling Luiz, who took the payment under his arm and left for his 
house, with a large procession in tow. "Nothing like that," Eimar said, "had ever 
happened on the Tapajos !"— 

NEWS THAT FORD had completed the deal prompted wild speculation as to 
his ability to revive the Amazon's economy. Modernizers, both those fromSao 
Paulo like Consul de Lima but also many from the Amazon, hoped that Ford's 
plan for capital-intensive, high-wage industrial development would overcome 
the jungle's poverty and backwardness, which many understood to be rooted in 
its extractive debt economy. National and local newspapers reported that Ford 
would build a railroad linking the interior to the Atlantic, roads that would flank 
the jungle's many rivers, and electric trolley lines running up and down both 
banks of the Tapajos, all allowing easy access to the Atlantic market for the 
state's agricultural products .- Rumors circulated in the press about how big 
Ford's city would be (the biggest in the Amazon, most agreed), the amount of 
money he intended to spend ($40 million, reported one paper), and how many 
workers he would hire (at least fifty thousand, wrote another). The Amazon 
would finally become, as Humboldt predicted, the "world's granary." On news 
of Ford's imminent arrival, Belem's municipal government paved roads, filled 
potholes, and laid new sidewalks; the city began to rouse itself, "just like an old 
broken-down fire horse when he sniffs smoke. The moment somebody says 
'rubber' out loud there is a sudden stir in all the old river towns."— 

In the press frenzy surrounding the concession, Ford was a symbol of hope 
but also a flashpoint of conflict, as many began to question his motives. 
Members of Brazil's intellectual and political class were often strongly 
nationalistic. They admired US industry and needed US capital, but they 
distrusted Washington's intentions . Not an unreasonable fear, considering that 



even as Ford was organizing his rubber project, US marines were occupying 
Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. And the death of Henry Wickham 
— now generally known around Belemas "Henry the First" — in September 1928, 
widely reported in the Brazilian press just as Ford's men were getting under way, 
reminded many of an earlier treachery.— 

The tension between the promise of development and the fear of loss of 
sovereignty was especially acute in the Amazon, over which Rio had but a 
precarious hold — as witnessed by the prolonged CabanagemRevolt. The vast 
rain forest seemed to attract international intrigue, both rumored and real. In 
1850, Matthew Fontaine Maury, the head of the US Naval Observatory, floated 
perhaps the first ofwhat would be a long history of schemes to transfer the 
Amazon to some jurisdiction other than Brazil's.- In the hope that the United 
States could both avoid a civil war and keep its expanding cotton industry, 
Maury proposed that Washington transfer the entire southern plantation 
economy — slaves, slavers, and livestock — to the lower Amazon valley. The 
question Maury asked was whether the Amazon would "be peopled with an 
imbecile and an indolent people or by a go ahead race that has the energy and 
enterprise equal to subdue the forest and to develop and bring forth the vast 
resources that lie hidden there."! "How men from the Mississippi would make 
things hum along the Amazon," waxed another American observer in 1910.— 

And so after an initial flush of enthusiasmthe press in Rio and Para 
criticized the concession's vagueness and undue generosity. It was a 
"monstrous contract," wrote the initially sympathetic Folha do Norte, a "most 
shameful document."— That Ford was required to plant rubber on only one 
thousand of the two and a half million acres granted led some to suggest that 
what the "multimillionaire Yankee" was really interested in was not latexbut oil, 
gold, and political leverage. Much of this early criticism was really an attack on 
the man who originally brokered the concession, Governor Dionysio Bentes, a 
powerful local party boss with many friends, quite a few enemies, and higher 
political aspirations. Critics blasted the secrecy in which the concession had 
been negotiated and its lavish tax and tariff exemptions. They noted that the 
estate's autonomous bank, schools, and police force violated Brazil's 
sovereignty. It was, they pointed out, as if Ford had the right to run Fordlandia 



as a separate state.— 

In provincial Santarem, newspapers reported on the debates with wry 
detachment that seemed to have eluded their more earnest counterparts in 
Belemor Rio. "When Ford Comes" is the "catchphrase of the day," one wrote 
of the excitement that was building over the arrival of the carmaker, with 
everybody dreaming of the money to be made and the marriages to be had. The 
same kind of Christ-like hope placed by rural people in the coming of a redeemer 
that so troubled Senator Norris in Tennessee was not lost on the Santarem 
press, which occasionally referred to the savior as Sao Ford — Saint Ford. "We 
use the word Ford," wrote one columnist, "as if it were an amulet, a protective 
talisman, if not to get rich than at least to get out of the tight situation we find 
ourselves in." He went on to suggest that perhaps sausages and toilet paper 
should bear the name of Ford, as well as a new cocktail, made up of agai — a 
local berry believed to be an aphrodisiac — and American "uisque," that is, 
"whiskey." 

But the scom and sarcasmwere largely lost on the many who continued to 
believe that Ford's arrival meant the salvation of the Amazon.— A Ford car was 
a cultural symbol the world over, weighted with meaning and familiar to even 
those who existed on the margins of survival, even if they lived in a place 
empty of roads, dirt or otherwise, like the Tapajos River valley. "Now I am finally 
going to leam how to drive," was one tapper's response to the news that Ford 
was starting a rubber plantation there. And throughout the lower Amazon, those 
looking for work simply said they were on their way to "Ford" — or, rather, "For," 
as it was pronounced in the regional Portuguese. They might use the masculine 
"o For," to refer to the man, or the feminine "a For" to indicate the company or 
plantation, but either way the meaning was clear: "Eii von pra For" — "I'm 
going to Ford."— 

And they hoped Ford would come to them as well, to see Brazil and the 
wondrous Amazon firsthand. Consul de lima kept promising he would deliver 
Ford. He said the carmaker was to have visited as early as 1922 but a failed 
military uprising interrupted his trip. "With the approach of the winter," de Lima 
wrote Dearborn in November 1925, "I wonder if you could informme at about 
what time you would be ready to leave for Brazil?" Ernest Liebold's response 
was not encouraging: "I could not say definitely at this time whether Mr. Ford 



will be able to undertake this trip to Brazil." Another secretary followed up yet 
another inquiry: "Mr. Ford has not yet made any definite plans concerning the 
trip you mention, consequently we are unable to give you the desired 
information." Not to worry, the consul assured his fellow countrymen in late 
1927, for now that the negotiations surrounding the rubber concession had 
been concluded to everyone's satisfaction, "it is in the cards that very soon we 
may have a visit fromMr. Ford," most likely in his "famous yacht that goes 20 
knots an hour." "Perhaps," de Lima hoped, "he will come with his old friend Mr. 
Edison."— 

Ford said he would cone. "I certainly intend to visit," he promised in 1928, 
"though I cannot now say how soon." 



-Brazilians were not the only ones to see opportunity in Ford's project. 
Dearborn received letters from around the world offering to sell Ford cheap land 
or share visionary ideas. Leslie Evans, of Battle Creek, Michigan, for example, 
wrote to the carmaker of his plan to create a systemof rail and river 
transportation throughout Brazil conpletely powered by biofuel made from the 
babassu palmnut, which "grows abundantly in a wild state" in the Amazon. The 
idea was "worth millions," according to Evans, who said that he himself would 
build the babassu-powered trains and ships and all Ford would have to do to 
earn a part of the proceeds was to put him in touch with the proper Brazilian 
officials and guarantee that the lines would not operate at a loss (BFRC, 
accession 74, box 13, "General Correspondence"). 

-Brazilians understandably chafed when Al Gore recently said that "contrary 
to what Brazilians think, the Amazon is not their property, it belongs to all of 
us." During World War II, Nelson Rockefeller recommended building a series of 
large canals connecting 'Venezuela's Orinoco delta to the Amazon and beyond to 
Argentina's Rio de La Plata, as a way of making sure that Latin American raw 
materials could get to US factories directly, without having to travel the Gennan 
submarine-infested Atlantic. And in 1965, the futurist Herbert Kahn, founder of 
the conservative Hudson Institute think tank, recommended that the United 
States, as part of its anticommunist economic modernization policy for Latin 
America, dam the Amazon to create five "Great Lakes," to spur industrial 
development and generate electricity, not just for Brazil but for all of South 



America (Herman Kahn, "New Focus on the Amazon," New York: Hudson 
Institute, 1965; Michael Goulding, Nigel J. H. Smith, and Dennis J. Mahar, 
Floods of Fortune: Ecology and Economy along the Amazon , New York: 
Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 47; Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett, Thy 
Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon; Nelson Rockefeller and 
Evangelism in the Age of Oil, New York: HarperCollins, 1996). 

^Maury's proposal reflected the US South 's hope that expansion into the 
Caribbean or Latin America, by seizing Cuba or parts of Central America, could 
save slavery. Its politicians and merchants pushed Brazil to allow for free 
navigation up the Amazon, arguing that the South American river was really an 
extension of the Mississippi. In 1849, the Richmond, Mrginia-based Southern 
Literary Messenger wrote that since Atlantic currents sweep its waters north 
into the Gulf of Mexico, the Amazon "may very properly be regarded as one of 
the tributaries" to "this ournoble sea," the Caribbean. Just as the Mississippi 
Valley worked as the "escape valve" for slavers migrating fromabolitionist 
states, believed the Mrginian Maury, "so will the Amazon \alley be that to the 
Miss." 



PART II 

LORD FORD 



CHAPTER 9 
TWO RIVERS 

SHORTLYAFTER THE NEW YEAR'S DAYTHAT FOLLOWED THE 
ratification of the land grant, Henry Ford wired Governor Bentes to wish him 
well for 1928 and to thank him for the "fine assistance" he had extended to Ide 
and Blakeley. "We are at present working out plans," he wrote, "and are fitting 
up a ship of our own for the voyage" to the plantation to "inaugurate the 
nucleus of a project which we trust will contribute to the prosperity of North 
BrazilM 

The ship in question was the Lake Ormoc, one of 199 decommissioned 
merchant marine vessels purchased in 1925. Throughout the 1920s, River Rouge 
managers pioneered techniques of industrial recycling, scouring through the 
detritus of government and commerce forreusable resources. Ford was 
obsessed with finding as many ways as possible to use nature's bounty. Just a 
few months after wiring Bentes, for instance, Ford was in England to promote 
his new Model A. Told that a garbage dump in Dagenham, Essex, had been 
burning for over a thousand years, he proposed building a powerhouse on the 
site to trans form its heat into steam to run his nearby factory. "This dump goes 
back to prehistoric times," he said. "Those fires have been burning away, 
wasted absolutely, all these centuries. I would like to see them working for man. 
"2 

In the case of the Ormoc, the ship was part of a fleet of "lakers" 
decommissioned by Washington after World War I and sitting rusting for years 
in seaports along the East Coast, until Ford acquired themat a cut rate. Under 
the direction of Charles Sorensen, Ford's legendary engineer who ran 
production at the Rouge, the ships were towed to Dearborn, stripped of brass, 
copper, piping, wires, and wood, then sent through a massive half-mile-long 
aquatic disassembly line. The line was composed often positions fitted with 
wrecking cranes, industrial torches, and giant shears, each charged with 
shredding a different ship section: masts, deck cabins, boilers, engines, hulls, 
and keels. Boilers and engines were refurbished and used elsewhere, and cabins 
became tool sheds and stockrooms. Railcars rolled the sheared steel to the 
Rouge's pig-cast building, where it was melted in enormous blast furnaces and 
shipped to the foundry. It took less than a week to render what it took months 
to build, leaving only a shadow of "oil and rust on the water." "What we call 
waste is only surplus," Ford once remarked, "and surplus is only the starting 
point ofnewuses."- 

Two ships were spared. Rouge workers gave the Lake Ormoc a new diesel 
motor, a machine shop, and water distillation plant, both for drinking and boiler 



use. They refitted the ship's mechanics, reducing the number of men needed to 
sail it from twenty-four to six. The captain's deskand dining table, his shower, 
and bedsprings for the crew's mattresses were all made of material recycled from 
other salvaged ships. As the proposed "base ship" until Fordlandia was up and 
running, the Ormoc was equipped with a hospital and an operating room, 
chemistry lab, refrigerators, laundry, a "well stocked library," lounge, and 
screened, relatively spacious cabins. The Lake Farge was converted into a tow 
barge, to be used to haul most of the makings of Fordlandia to the Tapajos.- 

In early July, boxcars began to pull alongside the Rouge's slip and cranes 
and winches started to fill the holds of the Ormoc and Farge with the machinery 
and material needed to start and maintain the plantation: a steam shovel, electric 
generators, road-building machinery, tractors (some with threaded wheels), 
picks, shovels, a stone crusher, a huge ice-making machine, hospital equipment, 
concrete mixers, a sawmill, pile drivers and stump pullers, a diesel tug, smaller 
river launches, prefabricated buildings, an entire disassembled warehouse 
recycled fromFord's Highland Park factory, piles of structural steel precut and 
fitted for the quick construction of buildings, asbestos to be used as a roofing 
material to deflect the sun's rays , plumbing fixtures, office supplies, clothes, 
medicine, and food, including a "huge supply of frozen beef and vegetables to 
"obviate any necessity of recourse to native tropical diet." There was even a 
railroad — a locomotive, rails, and ties — salvaged fromFord's Upper Peninsula 
sawmill operations, which by then used mostly Ford trucks to transport timber. 
It was a million dollars worth of goods all told.- 

Unfortunately, the Rouge's synchronized industrial efficiency didn't always 
spill over to the company's administration. No one told Sorensen that an 
underwater rock ledge cut across the Tapajos fifty miles downriver from where 
they planned to establish the plantation, making it impossible for ships the size 
ofthe Ormoc to reach the site during the dry season, when the water was low 

"Where are you going to send this boat?" Ernest Liebold asked Sorensen, 
who had called Ford's secretary over to the Rouge to have him take a look at the 
newly equipped Ormoc. 

"Down to the plantation," Sorensen replied. 

"You can't get up there." 

"Why not?" 

"You've got a rock ledge that goes across there, and you've only got nine 
feet for navigation." 

"How did you find that?" 

"Well, that information was available. If you had told me you were going to 
send the Ormoc down there, I might have told you."- 



Sorensen didn't believe Liebold, so he asked Einar Oxholm, a Norwegian sea 
captain sent by Ford to do advance work to check it out. Oxholmreported back 
that there was indeed a "shoal in the river" that made it "impossible for 
anything over nine feet in draft to move up at low waterperiod." 

ANYWHERE BETWEEN SIXTY and a hundred inches of water fall in the 
Amazon every year, mostly during the high-water season, which runs from 
December to June but often lingers on through July andAugust. To keep with 
the standard most often used by the Ford men, that's four times more 
precipitation than what the US Midwest gets in any year. Rain combines with 
melting Andean snow to swell the Amazon and its tributaries during these 
months, and rivers rise as much as thirty-six feet, overflowing into the jungle's 
floodplains, or vdrzea, leaving behind a coating of rich mountain soil that 
during the subsequent low-water season will nourish cultivated manioc, com, 
beans, and other jungle crops. During the flood months, the jungle takes on a 
netherworld, shape-shifting quality, as plateaus and hills become islands and 
trees seem to float erect, each an ecosystem to itself, alive with lichens, moss, 
algae, insects, snakes, bats, and mammals. From December to June, much of the 
Amazon basin fonns a vast but seasonal freshwater lake, what the Portuguese 
called a sea river, that constantly reworks the contour of the land. During these 
months, the Ormoc and Farge could easily make it up the Tapajos to the 
plantation site. 

But the ships were ready to go at the end of June, and back in Brazil 
Blakeley and Mllares's advance team had already started to clear the plantation 
site and they needed the heavy equipment. So Ford decided to dispatch the 
Ormoc and Faige despite Oxholm's advice to wait until the rainy season. They 
would at least make it as far as Santarem, about a hundred miles downriver from 
Boa Msta, the sleepy river village of a few dozen families picked to be the 
"capital of Ford land ia." In these early days, "Fordlandia" referred not to the 
plantation settlement but rather to the entirety of Ford's 2.5 million acres .- 

With Captain K. E Prinz at the helm, the Lake Ormoc left the Rouge dock on 
July 26, three days before Ford's sixty-fifth birthday. Its departure was an event 
momentous enough to earn front-page applause in most every major US daily. 
All of Brazil, announced the Detroit News, was eagerly awaiting the two ships 
loaded with "science, brains, and money." "Brazilian Area Bigger Than New 
Jersey Expected to Yield Gum to Make Tires for 2,000,000 Cars Yearly," ran the 
Washington Posfs headline. The Christian Science Monitor said that Ford 
planned to plant five million acres with rubber, while the New York limes 
predicted that the estate would eventually produce "five times the total world 
production estimated by experts for this year," or "6,000,000,000 pounds of 



rubber a year, enough to make nearly 1,000,000,000 Ford tires."— 

Despite this fanfare, Ford, usually loath to miss a publicity opportunity, 
skipped the send-off. A week earlier, he and Edsel had taken the Qrmoc out on a 
trial run down the Rouge River into Lake Erie. But now, a heat wave had settled 
over lower Michigan, killing scores of people. Defying the Amazon's dry season 
from a world away was one thing. Suffering Detroit's humidity in the flesh was 
another, so Ford escaped the city by taking off on one of his road trips. 

By this point in his life, Ford had become an ardent antiques collector, 
another one of his eccentricities that the press enjoyed reporting on. The 
Detroit News ran a steady stream of stories detailing his purchases of old 
furnaces, musical instruments (particularly violins), clocks, books, tools, kitchen 
utensils, London churches — anything that could be shipped back to an 
overflowing warehouse in Ford's tractor factory. Just that year, Ford had 
Thomas Edison's Fort Myers, Florida, workshop — a house built by the 
inventor's father in 1884 — disassembled and rebuilt in Greenfield Milage, a 
model town Ford had started building in Dearborn composed of important 
landmarks in American history. 

Now, in his flight from the heat, Ford first headed to a train depot in Fraser, 
Michigan, where he hoped to acquire the key on which a young Edison had 
learned how to transmit telegraph messages. 

"What do you want for it?" he asked the stationmaster. 

"Well, I'd like to get delivery on my new Ford. It was ordered a long time 
ago." 

"We can fix that up." 

Ford got his "relic" and the next day the stationmaster received his newly 
painted Model A. Ford then continued on to New Jersey to celebrate his 
birthday with the aging Edison in person.- 

Retuming to Dearborn a few days later. Ford held a press conference where 
he told reporters that he himself had driven a good part of the seven-hundred- 
mile trip in the newModelA. Ford's birthday corresponded to the silver 
anniversary of his company, which now employed well over 200,000 men in 
operations on six continents. It had gone fromproducing less than two 
thousand cars a year in its old MackAvenue workshop to over nine thousand 
in a single day. "The company's 25th birthday," wrote the Mill Street Journal, 
"finds Henry Ford in the midst of the most intensive period of activity since he 
first began to dream of horseless carriages." "Isn't there an age limit 
somewhere?" he was asked by a reporter on his return fromNew Jersey, about 
not just his endurance behind the wheel but his steerage of his company. "I 
haven't found it yet," Ford answered. He said he expected to "do more in the 



next five years than I have in the last 20." "You have got to keep going and 
doing," Ford wrote in his notebook.— 

THE ORMOC CUT across Lake Erie to the Welland Canal and Lake Ontario, 
then out the St. Lawrence to the Atlantic, docking at Kearny, New Jersey, in 
New York Harbor. There it joined the slower moving LakeFarge, which had left 
Dearborn two weeks earlier pulled by the tug Bellcamp. The ships picked up 
additional supplies, along with fourteen passengers — the plantation's staff and 
their wives — who had arrived from Detroit by train: a doctor from the Henry 
Ford Hospital, an electrical engineer, a chemist, an accountant, and "several 
competent managers." The Ormoc had plenty of science, brains, and money on 
board. What it didn't have was a horticulturalist, agronomist, botanist, 
microbiologist, entomologist, or any other person who might know something 
about jungle rubber and its enemies .— 

The ships averaged about a hundred miles a day, stopping in Belem for a 
few days and then arriving in Santaremin mid-September, in time for a jungle 
heat wave that for the next three months raised temperatures ten degrees higher 
than normal. It was an exceptionally dry season, and the Tapajos's banks were 
drawn low, exposing a two-meter strip of sand, rock, and cracked clay. As 
predicted, it would be at least two months, probably longer, before the ships 
would be able to make the final hundred niles to Boa Msta.— 




Ford executives on the deck of the Lake Ormoc. Left to rigfrt: Wlliam Costing; Edsel 
Ford; Einar Qxholm; Henry Foni; Pete Martin, in charge of production at Highland Park; 
Charles Soiensen; and Albert Wbcl, head of company purchasing. 

For months local newspapers had talked about what would happen "when 
Ford comes." Now, a year after the concession's ratification, the moment had 
finally arrived. Santaremwas founded as a fort in the early seventeenth century, 
when Portuguese slavers pushed up the Amazon River, obliterating the peaceful 
Tapajo Indians. Home to a few thousand people in the late 1920s, the city is 
located where the impressive Tapajos River comes to an end, giving way to the 
even more imposing Amazon. The juncture of the two rivers sits where the 
rocky bluffs of Brazil's southern alluvial shield butt up against the lower and 
flatter alluvial plain, creating a sheer drop just off Santarem's shore that allows 
large vessels like the Ormoc and Farge to pull up close. But despite a natural 
advantage that made the inland town a deepwaterport, residents were used to 
big ships ignoring them, stopping only for a moment, or not at all, on their way 
to Manaus or Iquitos. Decades later, Elizabeth Bishop, poet laureate of the 
United States, visited Santaremand wrote an eponymous ly titled poem that 
captured the town's languid, time-stopping qualities: 

That golden evening I really wanted to go no farther; 

more than anything else I wanted to stay awhile 

in that confluxoftwo great rivers, Tapajos, Amazon, 

grandly, silently flowing, flowing east. 

Suddenly there 'd been houses, people, and lots of mongrel 

riverboats skittering back and forth 

under a sky of gorgeous, under-lit clouds, 

with everything gilded, burnished along one side, 

and everything bright, cheerful, casual — or so it looked. 

I liked the place; I liked the idea of the place. 

Two rivers. Hadn't two rivers sprung 

from the Garden of Eden? No, that was four 

and they'd diverged. Here only two 

and coming together. . . . 

A long river beach — which Bishop described in a letter to a friend as made 
of "deep orange sand" — and wharf served as the heart of the city, whose 
irregular cobblestoned streets, then lined with a mix of close-cropped blue and 
red stucco and tile houses and thatched straw huts, rise gently from the beach, 
like aisles away froma stage in an amphitheater. The town had one car, an old 
rusted Ford truck, and had recently built a small electric plant, which powered a 
few straggling streetlamps . Facing the river stood the bleached blue and white 
Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, Our Lady of the Conception, the town's turreted 



cathedral built in the eighteenth century.— 

The scene rarely changed. Women beat dirty laundry on the beach rocks. 
Freighters, steamships, fishing boats, and the occasional timber raft vied for 
dockside space. Small boats filled with birds, monkeys, fruits, and "turtles of 
mammoth dimension'' paddled to intercept ocean liners heading to Manaus. 
Dockmen hoisted steers onto cattle boats with a harness and a pulley rope. 
'Two rivers full of crazy shipping — people / all apparently changing their 
minds, embarking, / disembarking, rowing clumsy dories," Bishop's poem 
continues. There was also the strange confluence of the blue green water of the 
Tapajos and the muddy brown of the Amazon, each keeping its own color, 
flowing like two bands for miles without blending. Occasionally, a boat would 
discharge a fortune seeker ornaturalist: Henry Wickham lived just outside the 
city before gathering the seeds that would doom the Brazilian rubber trade; 
Henry Walter Bates, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Richard Spruce made 
significant contributions to nineteenth -century evolutionary theory by using 
Santaremas a base of operations to send samples of plants and insects back to 
London's Kew Gardens- And during the high-water season, a parade of up- 
valley debris, the bloated carcasses of alligators and manatees, fallen trees, and 
even whole islands made of river grass, bromeliads, vines, moss, and 
phil odendrons, floated past the town as the river made its way to the Atlantic— 




A Jaded view of San/aivni s walerftont, 1928 



But that September there was a new show, as onlookers took in the Ford 
ships and waited to see what they would do next. The Qrmoc and Farge were 
hearty American vessels, about 250 feet long and nearly 50 across. Well 
provisioned and newly painted, they spoke for Ford's seriousness of purpose 
and proven capability. Yet they seemed rather forlorn as they sat in the 
Tapajos's massive "mouth-lake" — twelve miles wide and ninety long — which 
intersected with the Amazon River to create a body ofwaterone anthropologist 
compared to an "inland sea or one of the North American Great Lakes." One 
could, observed a Ford employee, "drop Lake Houghton, the largest of 
Michigan's inland lakes," into the Tapajos "and still have miles of margin left 
over."— 

CAPTAIN OXHOLM, WHO had taken over command from Prinz upon the 
ships 'arrival in Brazil, considered his options. He could wait a month or so for 
the waters to rise, but inpatient Dearborn wanted to see progress. That meant 
he had to transfer most of the cargo to smaller launches and use the BeHcamp 
to tug them to the plantation site. One local company, affiliated with the British 
Booth Line, offered to do the job for six dollars a ton. This was perhaps the last 
time Oxholm would be quoted a fair estimate, for in the months ahead, after Ford 
made the captain chief manager of the plantation, he developed a reputation as 
a "soft touch" easily fleeced for goods and services. In this instance, though, 
he declined a reasonable bid. He opted instead to rent lighters and hire labor 
directly, which not only wasted much valuable time but cost, according to a 
subsequent audit, roughly thirty-five dollars a ton. With a capacity of 3,800 
tons, Oxholmpaid out about $130,000 to unload just the Forge.— 

The transfer was slowed because the "special cranes" needed to remove the 
heavy equipment were packed first, "below all other freight on the ships." In 
future shipments, managers urged Rouge workers to "endeavor to use good 
judgment" in filling the Qrmoc so that "articles of general use or which might 
have several uses can be easily found." Another reason for delay was that it 
took at least two days for the BeHcamp to make it up to the construction site 
and back, teaching the Ford staff an early lesson in the slow rhythms of 
Amazon life. And even if the tug could go faster, the makeshift dock the 
advance teamhad constructed was too small to handle such a massive 
shipment of material and too wobbly for much of the heavy equipment. Nor was 
enough of the riverbank cleared to receive the cargo, which led to more 
bottlenecks. Then there was the confusion of Portuguese-ignorant foremen 
supervising local laborers, making for what one eyewitness described as good 
"material for a super Charlie Chaplin film" Modern Times meets Fitzcarraldo. 

On October 4, the plantation's representative in Belem cabled Charles 



Sorensen in Dearborn good news: "Lake Ormoc left Santarem last night bound 
for plantation." But later that day he sent a correction: "Report Ormoc leaving 
Santarem for plantation in error due to misunderstanding. Ormoc still at 
Santarem" Then a third: "Water going down instead of rising."— 

At the end of November, there were still over a thousand tons of equipment 
on the Faige, and the general chaos of the work got on the crew's nerves, 
yielding to "nasty accidents" and scuffles. On the last day ofthe cargo transfer, 
"Sailor Stadish" was on the deckofthe Ormoc operating a steam winch and 
teasing "Fireman Patrick," who was in the hold supervising local workers in a 
final cleanup. Stadish said something he shouldn't have, or at least not to 
someone in the hold of a ship on a day when the thermometer had well passed 
ninety degrees . He looked up and saw Patrick coming after him with an iron bar. 
Taking a step back, Stadish fell into an open hatch twenty-five feet, fracturing 
his skull and breaking a few ribs .— 

It was not an auspicious beginning for a company that hoped to, as Edsel 
Ford put it, bring "redemption" to the Amazon. It took nearly until the end of 
January to finally get the ships up to Boa Msta and fully unloaded. And then 
the trouble really began. 



-Though an improbable amount, both the Times and the Los Angeles Tunes 
reported this sixbillion figure, most likely provided by a company press release. 

-It was Spruce who identified and delivered to London a potent variety of 
cinchona, used to begin cultivation in India to make quinine — described by one 
official with the East India Company in 1852 as the most valuable medicinal drug 
in the world, "with probably the single exception of opium." At Santarem, where 
Spruce lived for over a year, he documented the local use of guarana — a 
caffeinelike stimulant prescribed fornervous disorders and thought to be a 
prophylactic for a variety of diseases — believing it could be introduced into 
European pharmacies, perhaps as a supplement to tea or coffee (Mark 
Honigsbaum, The Fever Trail: In Search ofthe Cure for Malaria , London: 
Macmillan, 2003, p. 5; Richard Spruce, Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon & 
Andes: Being Records of Travel on the Amazon and Its Tributaries, London: 
Macmillan, 1908, p. 452). 



CHAPTER 10 
SMOKE AND ASH 

A S THEY WAITED FOR THE ORMOC AND THE FARGE TO REACH 
THEM, Blakeley and Mllares set about establishing a work camp just outside 
the hamlet of Boa Msta and started to clear the jungle. True to the kind of 
optimism typical of the Ford Motor Company in the 1920s, reinforced by 
Villares's constant assurances that he had plantation experience, Blakeley was 
convinced that the rain forest and its people would soon yield to a "great 
industrial city" housing twenty-five thousand workers and a hundred thousand 
residents. The proposed location for this metropolis, on a rise sloping gently to 
the river, "lends itself well to an economical development of sewage." Though 
Blakeley was no more an engineer than his immediate boss, Harry Bennett, he 
thought building a city would be "a more or less simple matter." His plan was to 
allow arriving workers to live in temporary quarters set apart from the main 
settlement, until pronounced fit by Ford doctors to move into Fordlandia proper. 
Under company supervision, Brazilians, Blakeley proposed, should be allowed 
to build their own homes according to local traditions, though he would insist 
on the construction of proper and sanitary outhouses, which would be an 
important step in bringing "forth a new race." He told the American consul in 
Belemthat Ford had given him "carte blanche" to spend up to twelve million 
dollars, not just to "show some profit for the company" but to "do good" for 
the Amazon. - 

In a preliminary report to Dearborn, he suggested paying workers between 
twenty-five and fifty cents a day and teaching themhowto grow vegetable and 
fruit gardens to diversify their diet. Schools and churches would be built later, 
as the tappers were long used to living and working in isolation, free from 
religious and educational institutions. Unlike at the Rouge, he did not foresee a 
discipline problem; Brazilian workers are "most docile," he wrote. Among his 
crew, he hadn't heard the "slightest murmur of Bolshevism" Not even the 
execution of Sacco and Yanzetti — which tookplace just as he and Ide were 
negotiating the concession with Bentes — aroused their sympathy, Blakeley 
said.- 

Yet also true to the Ford tradition, Blakeley quickly developed a reputation 
as an autocrat. During his short reign at Fordlandia "his word was law." He had 
set himself up in an old Boa Vista fazenda — Portuguese for hacienda — that was 
decrepit but well ventilated while the laborers slept outdoors in hammocks or in 
palm lean-tos and his foremen crammed into a quickly erected, sweltering, 
malaria-ridden bunkhouse, each given "one room with one door and no window 
and no bath." Dearborn first got an inkling that something was wrong when 



Blakeley tried to take control of the subsidiary corporation Ide had set up as the 
legal owner of the plantation. "You have not explained why," company officials 
wrote him pointedly, "it was necessary to elect yourself managing director. "- 

But where autocracy in other realms of the Ford empire tended to produce 
some concordance between vision and execution, in the jungle it led to disaster. 

THE FORD MOTOR Company enjoyed a well-deserved reputation for 
industrial immaculateness. Hundreds of workers painted the Detroit plants on a 
regular basis. Cleaners scrubbed them as if they were operating rooms, making 
sure even the most remote corners were well lit, to prevent spitting. "One 
cannot have morale," Ford said, "without cleanliness. "- 

Imagine, then, Dearborn's reception of this very first notice on Fordlandia's 
progress: "No sanitation, no garbage cans, flies by the million, all filth, banana 
peels, orange rinds and dishwater thrown right out on the ground. . . . About 30 
men sick out of 104, no deaths but plenty of malaria. . . . Flies abounded in 
kitchen in all food and on tables and dishes until you could hardly see the food 
and tables. No screens formen to sleep under, no nets." The report was filed by 
Sao Paulo's Ford dealer, Kristian Orberg, after a visit to the camp. Orberg told 
Dearborn that two creeks bordering the main work site had been converted to a 
dump, breeding flies and mosquitoes that led to a severe outbreak of malaria. As 
a result, work came to a standstill for nearly the whole month of August. Food 
rotted. "They need ICE worst of all," he said. 

The impending arrival of the Ormoc and Farge promised tractors and other 
heavy equipment that would ease the work involved in land clearing. But in the 
meantime Blakeley and Mllares tried to make do. In Belem, Blakeley had 
purchased a few power saws and a small tractor, which he had delivered to the 
work site. Yet he quickly ran out of gas, so the machines sat idle. After months 
of labor, with workers cutting and dragging logs by hand, only a few hundred 
acres of trees had been felled. 

To add to the difficulties, the two men had picked the wrong time of the year 
to begin work. Ideally, the clearing of jungle for planting or pasture should be 
done during the dry season, between June and October, when the downed trees 
can be left to dry for a few months before being burned. But Blakeley and 
Villares had started felling trees during the wet season. When they tried to torch 
the waste wood, daily rains would extinguish the fire, leaving soaked piles of 
charred scrub. So they had to use copious amounts of kerosene to start a 
second burn, bigger than any yet seen on the Tapajos — or in most otherparts 
of the Amazon, for that matter. The jungle was turned inside out, as flames rose 
over a hundred feet, forcing tapirs, boars, cougars, boas, pit vipers, and other 
animals into the open, "crying, screaming, or bellowing with terror." Toucans, 



macaws, and parrots took flight, some of them falling back into the flames.- 

"They burned hundreds of hectares of primitive forest," remembers Eimar 
Franco, who watched the progress of Fordlandia fromacross the river. "They 
started a fire that lasted for days and days," he remembers, invoking both an 
image associated with today's Amazon — the forest laid waste by fire — and the 
smokestack and forge fires of nineteenth-century factory industrialization: "It 
terrified me. It seemed that the whole world was being consumed by flames. A 
great quantity of smoke rose to the sky, covering the sun and turning it red and 
dull. All that smoke and ash floated through the landscape, making it extremely 
frightening and oppressive. We were three kilometers away, on the other side of 
the river, and yet ash and burning leaves fell on our house."- 




Charted trunks and slumps after cm incomplete bum. 



DEARBORN WAS GROWING increasingly distrustful of Blakeley. No 
archival evidence proves that Blakeley took a profit from the machinations 
surrounding the Bentes concession, yet the fact that he kept his dealings with 
Villares, Greite, and Bentes, as well as his knowledge of kickbacks, a secret 
couldn't have sat well with Henry Ford, who learned about the swindle from 
State Department officials in early 1928.- For Blakeley 's part, whatever 
opportunities he saw arising from Ford's rubber enterprise were fanned by a 
growing sense of grievance. He began to resent the fact that the company was 



not rewarding all his good work with adequate compensation, and he sent 
Charles Sorensen a letter asking that his salary be increased to "A" level. His 
long stays in Brazil, he complained, had forced him to sell his Dearborn house 
and lose track of his investments. He reminded Sorensen that he had given up 
much American-style pleasure and comfort in order to "accomplish things in a 
country such as this." He began to pocket plantation cash, money that should 
have been used to buy quinine for the fever-ridden or gas for the power saw 
and tractor. He even refused to buy a horse for the fifty-four-year-old Raimundo 
Monteiro da Costa, a local rubber man hired to scout out the concession. 
During the hottest part of the day, the "old man" was making two four-mile 
tours on foot. And though Blakeley promised workers free room and board, he 
deducted the cost of transportation to the site from their first payment and 
charged them forty rrdlreis, about four dollars, for hammocks that cost half that. 
Dearborn didn't get wind of this petty graft until much later, yet in July a 
witness had emerged, a fellow passenger on the SS Cuthbert, who supported 
Ide's account of Blakeley 's coarse behavior "in every particular."- 

Dearbom recalled Blakeley and dismissed him in October, and his sudden 
departure led to a collapse of what little authority there was at the work camp. 
The remaining Americans bickered among themselves. Villares tried to leverage 
the bedlam to his advantage. No one was clearly in charge, so no one took 
responsibility for feeding and paying the camp's labor force, which had grown 
to 380 men. A month of bad food, no money, long workdays, and increasingly 
insulting behavior by increasingly desperate foremen were aggravated by a heat 
wave that made the jungle hotter than usual. 

In the best of conditions, clearing jungle is brutal, close-in work. But as 
October ran into November, high temperatures were hitting 106 degrees. 
Exhaustion and sickness overcame the contracted laborers who made up 
Fordlandia's first crew as they hacked their way into the dense, dank wood with 
machetes and cutlasses. They worked stripped to the waist: throughout the day, 
as the sun rose and the humidity increased, their bodies, covered with sweat, 
were scraped by thorns and branches and punctured by the bites of ticks, 
jiggers, black flies, and ants. The workers were not provided hats though these 
were indispensable when making the first pass at jungle clearing, as often the 
chopping of a creeper or a vine could disturb insect nests, raining scorpions, 
wasps, or hornets on those below. Just a touch of a branch or a vine and within 
seconds a swannof ants could cover a body, leaving workers red with festering 
bites. The mortality rate was high, as workers, bending low to chop the 
undergrowth, died quickly from snakebites orsuffered a more prolonged 
wasting away from fever, infection, or dysentery. 




Vtbrkers clearing the jungle pose for a photo. 

In early November, with the Ormoc and Farge still stuck in Santarem, 
tensions came to a head. When the crew's cook served yet another meal of 
rotten rreat and stinking fish, "hell was loosed." Demanding "good food the 
same for all," they sacked the kitchen and storehouse. The rioters armed 
themselves with the machetes and cutlasses and chased the Americans into the 
woods or out into the river on boats . hi a letter to his former comanager, 
Blakeley, now in Dearborn, Mllares claimed credit for restoring calm, saying that 
he slaughtered two steers to feed the men and brokered a deal in which they 
would get their wages if they promised not to hurt the Americans or destroy 
plantation property. There were, he pointed out, hundreds of gallons of 
kerosene and two hundred pounds of dynamite within their reach.- 

But like most other things having to do with \illares, it was hard to figure 
out where the line separating fact and self-promotion lay. Even before the riot, 
the Americans, particularly John Rogge and Curtis Pringle, had lost patience 
with the Brazilian. At first they thought him to be "energetic and capable." Yet at 
the plantation site Mllares proved to be supremely impractical He displayed 
little knowledge of agriculture, while Brazilian workers, who relied on him as an 
interpreter to communicate with the Americans , found him haughty. Mllares 



knew enough about the Amazon to know that what the Americans were doing 
— especially when it came to dealing and burning the jungle during the rainy 
season — was wrong. But he didn't know enough to say clearly what should be 
done and so only contributed to the work site's confusion. During the riot a 
gang of workers chased him into the woods, where he fell into a ditch and 
fractured his finger and nearly broke a leg. He made his way to Belem, only to be 
ordered to leave the country immediately, by his coconspirator Governor 
Bentes, in a last-minute bid to suppress a brewing scandal that was about to 
reveal to all of Brazil the shady dealings that went into granting Ford his land 
concession. 

It turns out that Captain Greite did not tear up the letter MUares had sent him 
two years earlier fromDetroit's Cadillac Hotel, after the meeting with the Fords 
where Mllares pitched the idea of "Fordville" and "Edselville." He instead made 
a copy of h, along with every other document related to the Ford swindle. 
Believing that his partners were shortchanging him, Greite handed them over to 
a local newspaper, which passed them on to Brazil's Communist Party's 
newspaper, A Manha, for publication in Rio. 

In early 1929, the story of the kickbacks and payoffs behind the concession 
exploded in the press. It all came out: the "ghoulish motives" of Greite, the 
"puerile tactics" of Schurzand Mllares, the cash to Bentes and others. "While 
Greite and Mllares received a good share of the opprobrium attached to the 
transaction," the American consul in Belem wrote to the State Department, 
"Bentes and the Ford Company received the brunt of the blame." The press 
expressed its indignation at the bribery that led to the concession, but US 
diplomats thought the graft trivial compared with the comiption that usually 
attended the expansion of American corporations abroad. It was common 
practice for US companies to put local officials on the payroll for nonexistent 
consulting services, to disperse company shares to politicians, and to give 
outright bribes. In establishing his rubber plantation in Liberia, Harvey 
Firestone, for instance, floated a S5 million loan to government officials that 
helped things go considerably more smoothly for him in Africa than they did for 
Ford in Brazil. "Nearly all large companies," wrote US commercial attache 
Carlton Jackson, who replaced William Schurz, "have learned to be 'practical.' " 
But the Ford Motor Company bribed just enough to provoke a scandal but not 
enough to keep it quiet. The controversy's real damage, then, was not to Ford's 
reputation for honesty but rather to his reputation for competence. The great 
man, it seemed, was snookered by a syndicate of bungling and bickering 
provincials into paying for land that was being given away free.— 




Joi^e Vilknes, back left, and \\vrl< crew with axes and machetes. 

VHIARES PROBABLYDIDN'T welcone the scandal's publicity. Yet for the 
nephew of Alberto Santo s-Dumont, who Brazilians insist was robbed of the 
credit for inventing the airplane, there were worse fates than to be known as the 
man who bested Ford. Claiming to be suffering a nervous breakdown, Wlares, 
induced by "threats, together with the payment of a sumof money" — both 
courtesy of Governor Bentes — boarded a steamer headed for France to retrieve 
his aviator uncle, who really had suffered an emotional collapse.— 

The disappointment of Alberto Santos-Dumont's life was not that he didn't 
get credit for inventing flight, though he did resent that the Wright brothers 
won all the acclaim. His real heartbreak was that he lived long enough to see the 
machine he helped develop be used as an instrument of death. Santos-Dumont 
wasn't an ideological pacifist like Henry Ford, but he did hope that airplanes 
would knit humanity closer together in a new peaceful community, just as Ford 
had believed that his car, along with other modem machinery, could bring about 
a warless world and a global "parliament of man." Both were of course proven 
wrong by World War I, which broke the conceit of many like Ford and Santos- 
Dumont that technology alone would usher in a new, higher stage of 
civilization. "I use a knife to slice gruyere," Santos-Dumont said when war broke 
out in Europe, "but it can also be used to stab someone. I was a fool to be 
thinking only of the cheese."— 



Ford dealt erratically with the fact that, after all his high-handed opposition 
to World War I, he turned his factories over to war production. He continued to 
speak out provocatively against war, maintaining his position that soldiers were 
murderers and quoting Tennyson's "Locksley Hall" to the end of his days. Yet 
Ford's faith in America as a revitalizing force in the world led him to say that he 
would support another war to do away with militarism "I want the United States 
to clean it all up," he said. No wonder the Topeka Daily Capital said that Ford 
put the "fist in pacifist."— 

Santos-Dumont, in contrast, was crippled by just his mere association to a 
machine that was used formass murder. He held himself "personally 
responsible for every fatality" caused by his "babies," that is, airplanes. "He 
now believes that he is more infamous than the devil," commented a friend. "A 
feeling of repentance invades him and leaves him in a flood of tears."— After 
the war he vainly called on governments and the League of Nations to 
"demilitarize' the airplane (a call that the surviving Wright brother, Orville, didn't 
support. Orville invoked a different kind of technological utopianism, insisting 
instead that the plane itself "has made war so terrible that I do not believe any 
country will again care to start a war"). But the slaughter continued, and death 
from above became a constitutive fact of modem life. Britain, for instance, 
encouraged by Minister of War and Air Winston Churchill regularly bombed 
and strafed Arabs as a way of maintaining cost-effective control over its 
colonies. And on July 16, 1927, just a week after Ide and Blakeley arrived in 
Belem, US marines in Nicaragua staged their first dive-bombing campaign, 
against the rebel Augusto Sandino. Marine pilots descended to three hundred 
feet to fire four thousand rounds of ammunition and drop twenty-seven bombs 
on anything that moved. Hundreds were killed in the slaughter- 
Throughout the 1920s, Santos-Dumont found hims elf checking in and out 
of various European sanatoriums, refusing to eat and losing weight. Death 
seemed to pursue him Persuaded by his nephew Jorge to return to Brazil, 
Santos-Dumont arrived home a hero. A dozen of Brazil's leading politicians, 
intellectuals, and engineers boarded the Santos-Dumont, a bimotored seaplane, 
to meet the steamship that carried the flyer and his nephew as it entered Rio's 
harbor. But celebration turned to tragedy when one of the plane's motors 
exploded, plunging its passengers and crew members to their deaths and 
Santos-Dumont deeper into depression. When the ship landed at the quay, the 
aviator was "greeted with profound silence by the multitude."— 

And the killing continued. War broke out in early 1932 between Bolivia and 
Paraguay over a stretch of worthless, hellishly hot scrubland thought to hold 
oil. It was a fully mechanized slaughter, with both sides borrowing copious 



amounts of money from foreign banks and petroleum companies to purchase 
tanks and planes. By the time it was over, more than a hundred thousand 
Bolivians and Paraguayans were dead. That same year, after witnessing the 
aerial bombing of his beloved city of Sao Paulo by federal forces putting down 
a regional revolt, Santos-Dumont committed suicide. Having sent his nephew 
Jorge out on an errand, he spoke his last words to an elevator operator as he 
returned to his room to hang himself: "What have I done?"— 

BACK IN THE AMAZON, Bentes had left the governor's mansion forthe 
federal senate just before the scandal broke, yet the controversy effectively 
ended his political career. His replacement as governor, Eurico de Freitas \alle, 
took office in February 1929 and immediately announced that he would review, 
and revise if necessary, the Ford concession.— 

A committed nationalist who was fearful of a Ford monopoly over either 
rubber or lumber, Governor Ville first canceled the grant's across-the-board 
export tax exemption. The Ford Motor Company took this gravely. While 
officials hoped that the property would hold oil or valuable minerals such as 
gold and maybe even diamonds, they knew it was rich in hardwoods and 
Dearborn assumed that the sale of lumber would cover the plantation's startup 
costs. Adding to their aggravation, \alle decreed that only rubber cultivated at 
Fordlandia — and not latex tapped from wild trees on the property or purchased 
from tappers working elsewhere — would be covered by the tax exclusion. 

\alle's moves had an immediate impact. Shortly after he announced his 
revocation of Ford's tax exemption, the governor of Amazonas — the state to the 
northwest of Para whose capital was Manaus — had twenty -four cases of 
rubber seeds destined for Ford's plantation seized and impounded. Ford 
intended to ship the seeds to California or the Philippines, he claimed 
— implicitly but none too subtly associating Henry Ford with the usurper Henry 
Wickham-^ 

These seeds had been obtained by Ford agents in the upper Amazon, on the 
advice of Carl LaRue, who thought the western region was home to a purer and 
more productive strain of Hevea than what was found around Fordlandia, even 
though it was he who had recommended the southeastern bank of the Tapajos 
as the best place to grow rubber, hi any case, the embargo of the seeds, 
combined with the delay unloading the Ormoc and Forge, left plantation 
managers scurrying to find local seeds. If they didn't succeed in planting a 
thousand acres by the end of July 1929 — a stipulation of the Bentes contract 
intended to ensure that Ford's proposed rubber plantation was not simply a 
cover for a quest for oil, diamonds, or gold — then \alle would have grounds to 
revoke the concession. 



Caught between Belem and Manaus, the plantation also had to answerto 
Rio. Contrary to Blakeley's assurances that the federal government had released 
the company from most import taxes, customs officials insisted that Ford pay 
duty on all material and machinery not directly related to rubber cultivation. 
When the Ormoc and Forge first arrived in Belem, Oxholmhad left a deposit of 
$12,000 to be used against future levies. Port authorities didn't want to hold up 
the ships by inspecting their crammed holds, so they waved them through. But 
now they said that Ford owed an additional $58,000 for the initial shipment and 
that henceforth all shipments would have to pay assessed duties in full before 
proceeding upriver.— 

From 1929 to 1931, the Ormoc made successive round-trips, bringing 
material fromDetroit to the Amazon and stopping in British Guyana on the way 
back to load bauxite for the Rouge's metal works . As the cargo piled up on 
Belem's docks, the company's tax bill soared. Ford lawyers argued that all 
material brought in was ultimately to support the cultivation of rubber, but port 
authorities interpreted the law narrowly, disqualifying the equipment needed to 
build the town, cut wood, sink wells, run train lines, construct houses, and lay 
roads. Company officials negotiated to release some imports, thereby allowing 
construction to proceed. Yet by March 1931, sixteen thousand tons of Ford 
goods — paint, steel, train rails, shelving, furniture, tools, stationery, hospital 
machines, surveying equipment, lab instruments, electrical parts, enameled 
sinks, and many other things — still sat unused in a customs warehouse.— 

These setbacks took place in the shadow of the worsening press coverage 
leveled at Bentes's "mercenary" contract, which for a "miserable handful of 
dollar's" allowed "the vessels of the nurltirnillionaire to transport everything 
without paying a single cent to our empty treasury." Ford, the papers said, was 
given a "concession for dominion.' — 

The tone was outrage, the style expose. One report after another 
documented not just the corruption that surrounded the original transaction but 
the complaints of workers who had left the plantation about low pay, putrid 
food, abuse of workers, forced evictions, and, particularly damning for Ford's 
name, ineptitude. 

The American consul wrote Dearborn that the Manaus and Belem 
newspapers were accusing Ford of having "commenced the prophesied 
subjection and exploitation" of Amazonian workers. One ex-Fordlandia clerk 
absconded with a number of documents that he claimed showed a large 
differential in the wages paid to Brazilians and Americans, peddling them to 
various newspapers for a "monetary reward." In early 1930, customs agents 
boarded and searched the Ormoc on its return to the States, acting on a tip that 



it was smuggling cases of diamonds out of the country. It was now "common 
gossip," wrote the consul, that Fordlandia's managers were paying workers just 
thirty cents a day, while entering eighty in the account books and pocketing the 
difference. (The gossip continues to this day: I was told by a resident of 
Fordlandia that plantation managers hollowed out tree trunks that they used to 
sneak gold past port authorities.)^ 

The consul had these stories translated into English and passed them on to 
Henry Ford directly. They were "patently false," he told Ford, yet "your 
company is not altogether without fault in the matter."— 



CHAPTER 11 

PROPHESIED SUBJECTION 

FOLLOWING REEVES BLAKELEVS DISMISSALAND THE NOVEMBER 
riot, Charles Sorensen suggested to Henry Ford that he appoint Captain Einar 
Oxholmas Fordlandia's manager. Bom in 1892 in Fredrikshald, Norway, near the 
border with Sweden, Oxholmran away from home when he was thirteen to join 
the merchant marine, working his way up fromcabin boy to deckhand, then to 
command of his own ship with the New Orleans-based United Fruit Company. 
After reading a notice in a local paper in early 1928 that the Ford Motor 
Company was hiring ship crews, he traveled to Dearborn. Henry Ford gave him 
a job on the spot and sent him to the Amazon with Blakeley's advance team 
Word had not yet reached Dearborn of Qxholm's clumsy unloading of the 
Ormoc and Farge, so the carmaker took Sorensen 's recommendation. 

Oxholmhad no experience in tropical botanies or plantation management. 
But this didn't trouble Ford, who disdained specialization and expertise. He 
liked to brag that his company never employed an "expert in full bloom" 
because they "always know to a dot just why something cannot be done." 
"None of our men are 'experts,'" Ford said. "We have most unfortunately 
found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert 
— because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job. ~ 

Much of this contempt was pure posture, for Ford in fact hired experts, from 
lawyers and doctors to sea captains. Yet he did have famed luck entrusting 
complex miss ions, even industiy-transforming tasks, to people with intuitive 
engineering intelligence. It was not a trained metallurgist but a former factory 
sweeper, John Wandersee, who perfected the alloy process for vanadium, the 
breakthrough lightweight steel compound that made the Model T possible. 
Ford's "pioneering spirit," as Albert Wibel, the company's purchasing chief, put 
it, allowed him to take chances on unproven men. "He thought of it in terms of 
common sense,"— 

For Ford, the Lutheran Oxholmdid have one quality that made him perfect 
for the job: a reputation for absolute honesty. Stories from Brazil of corruption 
and kickbacks troubled Dearborn officials, as did reports of drinking and 
prostitution, not just by Brazilians but by Ford men. 

Ford, then, charged Oxholmnot just with taking over what Blakeley had 
started but putting an end to what he had let fester. It was Sorensen, a fellow 
Scandinavian, who gave Oxholmhis brief: "I amof the opinion that the 
difficulties you are up against will gradually clear up if you confine yourself 
strictly to the principles of the Ford Motor Company, which are absolutely 
honest in eveiy direction you are dealing," he wrote. "It is on this one point that 
I am depending so much upon yourself, because at home, while we feel your 
lack of experience in matters of this kind, we are, however, strongly of the 



opinion that we can depend upon your honesty. The experience that is required 
will come by keeping this point in mind at all times, and doing the work in 
accordance with strict Ford principles ."- 

OXHOLM MAYHAVE been honest, but honesty is not a required jungle 
virtue. Nor would strict Ford principles help him interpret local expectations. 

He refused the reasonable bid by a shipping firm to unload the Ormoc and 
Farge, instead spending over a hundred thousand dollars to do himself what 
others would have done for a fraction of the cost, because he didn't want to 
seem an easy mark. Worse still, his strict reading of his orders inflamed the 
import duty issue. Little contretemps that could have been settled with a bit of 
charmin his hands turned into an exhausting fight that lasted three years. 
Brazilian law stated that when custominspectors needed to travel outside their 
stationed port of entry to examine cargo, the owners of the merchandise were 
responsible for paying about $2.50 for their room and board. But when Belem's 
inspectors, having traveled to Santaremto inventory the holds of the Ormoc 
and Farge, requested the fee, Oxholm thought he was being tapped for a bribe. 
He indignantly refused to pay it, leading the port authorities to harden their 
assessment on future Ford imports.- 

A"big man" with a "weak mind," as one of his assistants remembered him, 
Oxholm, having wasted nearly three months unloading the Ormoc and Farge, 
only continued Blakeley's "chaos" and "mismanagement" at Fordlandia, 
according to the US consul in Belem- By January, with the Ormoc and Farge 
finally at the plantation site and order restored after the riot — thanks to a 
"quantity of arms and munitions, including machine guns," sent by Brazilian 
authorities, as one local newspaper reported — Oxholm began to hire more men.— 
By the end of 1929, the Brazilian workforce at Fordlandia had grown from a few 
hundred to over a thousand. Workers poured in from all over the country, and 
boats arrived every day bringing more. "We are steadily increasing the force," 
Oxholmtold Dearborn. Yet even as the number of employees continued to climb, 
progress toward making the plantation an efficient productive unit faltered. 

Oxholm had started construction on an administrative office, a makeshift 
hospital, and workshops, hoping to establish a temporary settlement until a 
good patch of jungle could be cleared and enough rubber planted to meet the 
tenns of the contract. Then he would devote himself to surveying a street grid 
for the town and building "proper houses according to blue prints." But in the 
meantime, single workers crammed into hastily built, poorly ventilated 
bunkhouses, and married families threw up ramshackle houses along the work 
site's edge, using discarded planks frompacking crates for walls and palm 
thatch or canvas tarps for roofs. "We are having a hard time," Oxholm admitted 
to Dearborn in December 1929, making "this place look as a Ford plant should. 
"1 



THE CAPTAIN'S MAIN problem was labor: getting it, keeping it, and 
managing it. It would be years before the estate needed rubber tappers, but the 
company still required as many men as it could hire to clear the jungle. Oxholm 
had to have at least a thousand acres planted by July 1929, as per the tenns of 
the concession. He also needed men to level roads and the bed for the railway 
and to build the physical plant and town residences. 

In the first months of his tenure, Oxholmhired thousands of workers. But he 
had trouble retaining them During some weeks in 1929, particularly through 
June, July, and August, the turnover rate equaled that of the Ford Motor 
Company back in Highland Park in the years prior to the Five Dollar Day. Three 
times as many workers were quitting as were being hired, which meant that the 
plantation's managers and foremen had to spend a good part of their day 
training new workers to adjust to the regimentation of plantation labor. 

Oxholm couldn't tell Dearborn why he was having such a hard time building 
and keeping a steady labor force. "We have lately lost quite a number of men 
without being able to obtain any special reason," he wrote to the home office in 
June. Foremen were powerless to stop workers getting on boats and leaving. 
Most refused to say why they were quitting, but Oxholmbelieved they didn't 
want to work during the dry season, which was also the insect season, "when 
the fever is most prevalent." He tried to make "these people understand that 
this place is far healthier than the places where many of them live, swampy 
regions, where nothing is done to subdue the mosquitoes, and where there is 
no medical attention within reach." But perhaps having survived, or heard of, 
the malaria epidemic that crippled the camp the year before — when Blakeley 
refused to provide the sick with quinine — they didn't listen. 

Other Americans who spent time on the plantation thought the low retention 
rate had to do with the fact that living was too easy in the bountiful jungle, or at 
least they thought it was. A long tradition of Amazon travel writing attributed 
the region's supposed lethargy to its fecundity, which, by easily yielding its 
nutritional riches, was said to encourage idleness. Though the genre would 
become mostly associated with nineteenth -century Victorian travel and 
naturalist writers, one of the first Europeans to appreciate the satiating richness 
of Amazonian life was the man for whomthe Americas were named, Amerigo 
Vespucci, who upon sailing up the Amazon in 1499 said that he "fancied himself 
to be near the terrestrial paradise." "One turtle suffices to satisfy the largest 
family," wrote Father Cristobal de Acuna a century and a half later. "These 
barbarians never know what hunger is." If daily life could simply be picked off a 
tree, there was little incentive to harness the resources of the jungle to set 
productive forces loose. "When they got a little money they would just take 
off" the Michigan wife of one early Fordlandia administrator recalled. Workers 
would amble into the woods and bring "out avocados which grew wild. Wild 



bananas are sweet, yellow and are used for desserts. The natives would bring 
back grapefruits, oranges and papaya and lima beans. . . . Beans grow about ten 
times the size of their Michigan relatives. The orange was bigger than the 
grapefruit. . . . Fishing was wonderful. This gives you an idea of how simple it 
was for the natives to live.''' The sawyer Matt Mulrooney thought the natives 
the "richest people in the world. . . .All they had ever seen was the woods and 
water. They didn't know anything about work." Having come to the United 
States as a boy with his family fromlreland to escape famine, Mulrooney, but a 
generation removed frompeasant labor himself, appreciated the Amazon's 
abundance. 'There is pears, oranges and bananas," he said. "Right in front of 
the house where I lived, bananas were growing." People "could go out Sunday 
and kill monkeys. They had monkey meat there the year around. The woods was 
full of them You could go out there with a gun and in twenty minutes have a 
monkey. They didn't have guns. They got them with a slingshot."— 

That Ford paid wages, as opposed to advancing credit, did seem to 
undercut the plantation's ability to ensure a stable labor force. Once a worker 
accumulated enough savings to live on for a few months, there was little 
incentive to stop him from returning home to his family and tending to his 
crops. "There was nothing down there to absorb their earnings," said Ernest 
Liebold, acknowledging that the Amazon lacked a key ingredient of Fordism: 
something to buy. David Riker, who for a time served as one of Ford land ia's 
labor recruiters, had a similar view. He had difficulty finding workers, since as 
long as Brazilians could live without wages they resisted the "Ford machine,"- 

Others attributed worker flight to abusive foremen, bad food, and continued 
poor housing conditions. Years earlier, Ford, during his animated conversation 
with Brazilian diplomat Jose Custodio Alves de lima, said he had every 
intention of paying his celebrated Five Dollar Day wage, a promise de Lima 
repeatedly published throughout Brazil to build support for the coming of Ford. 
But in its many overseas operations, the Ford Motor Company tended to pay a 
notch above the prevailing wage, which is what it intended to do in the Amazon, 
notwithstanding Ford's showboating. 

This, thought the American consul in Belem, was possibly one of the 
reasons for the high turnover rate, as workers who showed up thinking that 
they would be getting five dollars a day were disappointed to receive thirty-five 
cents.— 

LABOR I^ECRUITERS FANNED out through the region's maze of rivers, 
creeks, and lakes but found the going exasperatingly slow. "It is hard to get 
around as fast as one would like," said James Murray, a Scottish recruiter who 
was sailing around the confluence of the Tapajos and the Amazon near 
Santarem Traveling through Lago Grande, just up the Amazon from Santarem, 
Murray's steamship ran aground for three hours . A "terrific stonri" then delayed 



it another four. He finally arrived in the town of Curuai and rounded up thirty- 
three recruits. Then at midnight, the boat hit bottom again. By seven in the 
morning, it was still trying to break free. And while riverboats could be used to 
travel to the main river towns, many of the settlements dispersed along the 
banks of lesser rivers, streams, and lakes could be reached only by smaller 
crafts A 

Murray tried to send advance word through priests, traders, and steamboat 
pilots that he would be arriving in a given village on an approximate date so that 
those who lived inland looking for work could gather in their village plaza. But 
he found local elites none too cooperative. Many feared that the Ford Motor 
Company, and the cash it paid, would disrupt the patronage relations that 
governed life on the river. 

When Murray landed in the town of Monte Alegre, he had hopes that he 
would be able to find some workers among what appeared to be a largely idle 
and poor population. But he had a run-in with the mayor, who not only ''flatly 
refused to help in any way" but threatened to charge the company a taxof 
fifteen dollars for every inhabitant Murray took from his town. An election was 
coming up, and the politician didn't want to lose any potential voters. On the 
town's outskirts, the recruiter spoke with a number of migrant families who had 
settled in Para because of severe drought in their home states of Ceara and 
Maranhao. They were interested in Fordlandia work But they were indebted to 
the state government for the land and tools advanced them and were not 
permitted to leave, as their labor was contracted to a local cotton plantation 
owner. 

Then there were the steamboat operators who shuttled recruiters around 
rivertowns and carried contracted labor back to Fordlandia. That Ford agents 
might have to spend days in a forlorn village waiting for a boat to arrive tended 
to weaken their ability to negotiate reasonable fares. When the Santa Maria 
finally showed up in Parintins, an island town in the Amazon River, Murray went 
aboard and asked how much it would cost to take him and the twenty-three men 
he had signed up back to the plantation. The captain first said he was too busy 
to take the job. Then, when pressed, he quoted a price of four dollars a head. 
Murray said he was crazy and walked away. But stuck on an island with few 
other options, he returned to the dock and pleaded the price down to three 
dollars. Murray tried to pass this expense on to his recruits, but they balked. 
Twenty of them changed their minds and decided not to take the job. Two 
others said they would get to Fordlandia in their own canoe. 

Murray also saw many men who seemed to be unoccupied in the town of 
Alenquer, across the river from Santarem, so many that he wrote the plantation 
to say that he had "a feeling of confidence that labour is available." But he was 
quickly disappointed. 'There are many men around, but when you talk to them 
and suggest working a hoe they tell you flatly that this type of work does not 



interest them" Instead of the constant workFordlandia was offering, Murray 
reported that local residents preferred seasonal labor, tapping rubber or 
gathering nuts on e>peditions financed by local merchants. Most showed "little 
interest in Fordlandia. Claimpassage rates too high, too far from home, and high 
cost of living." Likewise in Santarem, another Ford man complained that while 
there were ''hundreds (maybe 2000) idle men" who didn't "have one thin dime," 
they didn't "want to work."— 




Steamboat on the Tapqjos. 

Henry Ford sent instructions that Fordlandia was to pay at least 25 to 35 



percent more than the local wage. But it was impossible for Fordlandia 's staff to 
translate that differential into cash, since so much of the river economy was 
calculated in kind and credit. "No fixed scale of wages exist/' Murray wrote. 
"What the caboclo earns is secondary to him" How much, he asked, was to be 
added to a Ford wage that would compensate a worker for the ability to throw a 
line into the river and fish for that night's dinner, even as he sat on a dock and 
sorted brazil nuts for some merchant who hired him for the day?— 

If Ford paid too little, he wouldn't attract enough workers to begin with. If 
he paid too much, there was nothing to stop those who did come frommelting 
back into the jungle once they earned enough to live for a few months without 
work. Labor in exchange for goods advanced on credit created a familiar set of 
expectations, against which pure cash wages and a fixed schedule often 
couldn't compete, Murray wrote that what tappers ''like is to be free and go and 
come when they think fit." It's a sentiment confirmed more recently by 
anthropologist Edviges Marta Ioris. hi the course of fieldwork in rural 
communities in the Tapajos National Forest, which today overlaps with what 
was Fordlandia, she met a few surviving Ford workers who told her that they 
would stay on the plantation fora time but leave when they needed to "plant 
the field crops, go fishing."— 

Murray and other recruiters mostly scouted among the river caboclo 
communities, made up of descendants of migrants from Brazil's northeastern 
departments who had come to the region during the rubber boom. These 
communities, whose economy rested solely on rubber tapping, were hard -hit 
when the latex economy crashed. Ford, however, was arriving nearly two 
decades after the bust, when some ofthemhad managed to revive and diversify 
their survival strategies, planting crops, keeping animals, and fishing to provide 
a basic level of subsistence, taking jobs with local patrons as needed. 

But there were also settlements of desperately poor, hungry indigenous 
peoples around the Tapajos who had managed to survive, just barely, rubber's 
heyday. Whether or not Fordlandia would have been able to draw a significant 
amount of labor from these communities is debatable, as a combination of 
racismand ignorance precluded anyone's even trying. At one point, a labor 
recruiter indicated that there was a group of "2000 starving Indians" recently 
settled by the government on the banks of the Xingu, a river running roughly 
parallel to the Tapajos, to the east, and that they would probably welcome 
working at Fordlandia, which would provide them with "free housing, free 
medical attention, free hospital, good water, free school, and a steady job for 
steady men." Yet before an agent could be dispatched to the Xingu, Ed mar 
Jovita, an Oxford-educated Brazilian who worked for the company but was then 
traveling, sent a telegram urging the plantation to "have nothing to do with 
these Indians as they are not tamed." Fordlandia wired back asking if Jovita 



thought that just a hundred men could be hired, with the "distinct 
understanding that they are subject to discipline." But the Brazilian responded 
forcefully: "Today more than ever have the opinion that we should not have 
any [Indians] in the plantation either these or others. . . .You would have 
trouble ahead. Even if they were tame they are lazy and undisciplined. Besides 
all other defects they are treacherous, even the tamest.''' Fordlandia relented. 
"Okay on Indians. We repeat we don't want them dad you got right 
information."— 

FROM BEYOND THE Amazon, where wage labor was more institutionalized, 
many impoverished Brazilians did travel to Fordlandia at their own expense, too 
many tor Oxholmto handle, either as plantation manager or town administrator. 
Soon more than five thousand people lived in and around the plantation, about 
double Santarem's population. There existed little infrastructure to support such 
a fast-growing community. Through 1929 and into 1930, there was no permanent 
dock or reception hall for Fordlandia 's new arrivals. So when job seekers got off 
the steamboats, they spread out along the riverfront, setting up family camps, 
building cooking fires, and hanging their hammocks. A jungle shantytown 
quickly took shape. "Sometimes it is several days before they present 
themselves at the employment office," complained one foreman. 

The migrants were a varied lot, described by one observer as made up of 
"the hopeless, the lame, the blind, the unemployed and everything else, along 
with some good men." Some were hired. But those who weren't stayed anyway, 
as did many who were initially employed yet quit soon after; with a 300 percent 
turnover rate, Fordlandia had to make about sixthousand hires to keep a payroll 
of two thousand. Many of these new arrivals took up residence in the small 
villages that predated the Ford contract and dotted the periphery of the 
plantation, such as Pau d 'Agua, a settlement of sharecroppers located about a 
half mile upriver from the cleared riverfront that, like Boa Vista before its sale to 
the company, was owned by the merchant Franco family. A whole service 
economy sprang up in these villages, and the plantation became, as one 
observer sent by Dearborn to see how Ford's namesake town was progressing 
put it, a "mecca for all undesirables, even criminals, of the entire Amazon 
Valley." These "troublemakers," the Ford official went on, "endeavored in any 
way conceivable to make a living off of the men who were working for the 
company." The sudden influxof cash gave bloomto "filthy small cafes, 
restaurants, meat and fruit shops," gambling houses, and thatched bordellos 
established by local merchants and staffed mostly with women fromBrazirs 
poor northeast. Riverboats pulled up to Fordlandia 's makeshift dock daily, and 
workers "swarmed aboard" to buy beer and cachaca.— 

Captain Oxholmand James Kennedy, Ford's accountant, tried to have these 
villages destroyed, but they ran into resistance. Though the Francos had been 



willing to part with Boa Msta, they insisted on holding on to Pau d'Agua, which 
provided the family a useful monthly revenue in rubber, pigs, hens, ducks, and, 
increasingly as Ford's wages began to seep into the local economy, cash. In 
addition to the Francos, a number of other landowners along the Tapajos and 
up the Cupary River refused to move or sell, even though property values had 
increased dramatically. What made this standoff even more intractable was that 
the Ford Motor Company refused to compensate residents who did not have a 
clear and legal deed. This meant that those who had occupied their land for 
decades without titles, a common enough situation in the Amazon, had little 
incentive to move. Kennedy wrote to Dearborn saying that he had managed to 
buy out a few families who did have deeds. Yet they refused to leave their 
homes, and when the accountant tried to have them evicted they complained to 
the press that Ford had swindled them, buying their land from illiterate family 
members without their authorization. The Ford Motor Company didn't always 
get its way — Ford was, after all, frustrated at Muscle Shoals — yet it often did. hi 
Michigan in 1923, when property owners refused to sell land where Ford wanted 
to build a hydroelectric damto power one of his village industries, the company 
got the state legislature to pass an eminent domain law that allowed it to 
expropriate the property. But in the Brazilian state of Para, with Governor Ville's 
anti-Ford campaign in full swing, a judge issued an injunction ordering 
Kennedy to cease his eviction threats.— 

PROHIBITION WAS ONE of the Ford principles Oxholm was sworn to 
uphold. It had been the law of the land in Michigan since 1916 (a law that Ford 
lobbied for, telling reporters that he would convert Detroit's breweries to 
produce alcohol fuel for his cars) and in the United States since 1920. 
Prohibition of course didn't stop drinking but rather provided fertile 
opportunities for the extension of organized crime. Detroit and Dearborn 
sprawled with bars and speakeasies, hi Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Iron 
Mountain, where the Ford Motor Company paid high wages to a large 
workforce, also saw the spread of "unparalleled conditions of vice and 
prostitution." Mob gangs with ties to Detroit's Mafia moved in to set up 
whiskey "joints," casinos, brothels, and morphine dens along its midway. "One 
pretty 18-year-old miss," reported a local newspaper, "has found that there are 
shadows as well as bright lights along the primrose path of jazz," having 
succumbed to the town's ample supply of "white powders."— 

But the problems created by the criminalization of alcohol failed to diminish 
Ford's sense of virtue. With reports coming in about drunken revelries in the 
Amazon, he insisted that what was law in America be company policy in Brazil. 
"Mr. Ford constantly impressed me with the fact that he didn't want anyone 
around addicted to liquor," Ernest Liebold recalled. "We were in prohibition, and 
he wanted it enforced, as far as our employees were concerned. Even though it 



was a foreign country, I think it was largely in line with Ford policy to cany it 
into that count ly. Ifwe were to permit promiscuous use of liquor on our 
plantation, why, the employees might on certain occasions get beyond our 
control."— 

It was Ford's will, but Sorensen was his enforcer. He fired off one directive 
after another to Oxliolm, demanding strict compliance with Prohibition. "We 
absolutely will not have it," meaning alcohol, "on our property. We know from 
events that have happened during the past year that drinking has taken place." 
He insisted on "absolutely no tolerance."— 

In truth, Oxholmwas powerless to stop the debauchery. He couldn't even 
keep a leper named Castro from camping on the dock to solicit alms. Shooed 
away, the mendicant simply returned when the captain's attentions were 
elsewhere. Similarly, when Oxholmdid manage to shut down a few bordellos and 
bars, the proprietors simply set up shop on an island just off Fordlandia's 
banks, building their brothels on stilts because the island was half wetlands and 
prone to floods. It was ironically dubbed the "Island of Innocence" since, as 
Eimar Franco put it, "no one on it was innocent." 

Besides, Oxholm himself developed a fondness for cachaca com limao. 
Many afternoons, even before the workday had come to a close, he'd take a fast 
launch overto the island of Umcurituba to visit his friend Francisco Franco, 
who after his nephew Luiz used the money fromthe sale of Boa Vista to move to 
Belem, had taken over the main hacienda. Swaying on a hammock on Franco's 
veranda, right in front of the chapel to Saint Peter, Oxholmsipped mm and 
watched Fordlandia's bustle.— 

BACK ON HIS side of the Tapajos, Oxholm found himself governing a 
community of ailing migrants. By late 1929, the workforce had grown 
considerably, yet on any given day about a hundred would be in the hospital 
sick. The "amount of medical attention for the approximately 1300 men on the 
payroll," he wrote Dearborn, "is way out of proportion to what one would 
expect." During the rainy season, the numbers of sick increased, taxing the 
hospital "to the limit." Its beds filled with workers with suppurating sores on 
their feet and legs. The medical staff was charged not just with treating the sick 
but with screening recruits. Potential employees stripped naked in front of a 
Ford doctor, who examined their eyes and ears, recorded their weight and 
height, and took their urine.— The company rejected 5 to 10 percent of all 
applicants. Some were turned away for illnesses ranging fromcirrhosis and 
bronchitis to paralysis, hernias, and leprosy. One was blind in the right eye. 
Another in the left. And at least one job-seeker was too short— 

That didn't mean everyone who got a job was healthy. More than 85 percent 
of job seekers had in the past suffered from at least one disease: syphilis, 
malaria, beriberi, dysentery, parasites, typhoid, ringworm, filariasis — caused by 



a mosquito-bome thread worm that infects the lymphatic systemand leads to a 
thickening of the skin — or yaws, skin ulcers caused by bacteria. But Oxholm 
couldn't afford to turn anybody with such "garden variety" illnesses away 
since "nearly everyone has them" By December, a third ofthe hired workforce 
had to pass some time in the hospital before even getting started.— 

He also had to deal with the employees who had contracted venereal 
diseases, running at a rate of about nine a month, in the camp's bordellos. 
When a Ford doctor visited one ofthe brothels, he found that seven of its nine 
prostitutes had an active gynecological infection. Oxholm ordered the following 
sign posted around the work sites and villages: 

It is a serious matter to contract venereal disease during the period 
of employment in this Company and the Company wishes to discourage 
it. Any employee having contracted venereal disease must immediately 
report the fact to the Medical Department. In case it is decided to 
hospitalize him the Company reserves the right to charge a reasonable 
amount to cover this service. At intervals there may be a Medical 
Inspection of employees to ascertain if there are any unreported cases. 
The disposition of these cases will be at the discretion ofthe Company. 
As to the women, Oxholm would not treat them: "We do not want to have 
anything to do with them, and have absolutely refused treatment in any way, 
shape, or form We hope that by doing so they will be forced to leave." 

The families of migrant worker's put yet another strain on Fordlandia's 
already overwhelmed health services. Plantation administrators factored into the 
cost of transport one wife and three children per worker. But they soon realized 
that workers fromnortheast Brazil, where many migrants to the Amazon 
originated, were, as one labor recruiter put it, "very prolific and 5 children 
should be reckoned." The medical staff was completely unprepared to deal with 
the influxofthese children, many of whom were malnourished and suffered 
from hookworm, intestinal illnesses, and jungle fever's. "While we make it a 
practice to examine men who enter our employ,''' the captain reported to 
Dearborn, "we have not been examining the women and children who live in the 
native camp, and every river boat which reaches our property is bringing more 
of them The boats are also bringing in friends and relatives of employees." 
Oxholm had to relent, allowing the hospital to set up a children's ward, which 
was never without a severe case of malnutrition. 

To offset all these expenses, Oxholm suggested that the company abandon 
its promise of free medical care. He set up a payment scale that would cover job 
applicants who needed hospital treatment before they started working, family 
members who required care, and those employees who contracted venereal 
disease despite the posted warnings. He wanted to deduct fees fromsalaries, 
yet there was no bookkeeping system in place that could manage such 
accounts. It took some time to locate the office supplies that were packed in the 



Farge, and once they were found, typewriter carriages had rusted and paper 
had grown moldy from the humidity. The roof of the accounting office poured 
in water so that every time it rained "all records have to be gathered up and put 
away and the office force has to evacuate the building until the rain has 
ceased.''' In any case, when Gxholmtold Dearborn officials of his plan, they 
overruled him, insisting that medical care should remain free. 

IN HIS SEARCH for labor, Oxholmalso looked to the British Caribbean, 
which had a long history of supplying workers to large-scale construction 
projects throughout Latin America, such as the Panama Canal. In the first 
couple of months he managed to attract a number of West Indians from the 
upper Amazon who had survived the construction of the 228-mile Madeira-to- 
Mamore train line, one of the most brutal and ill-conceived industrial projects 
ever executed. The line was started in the 1870s at the height of the rubber 
boom with the idea of bypassing a series of formidable rapids that hindered the 
use of the upper Madeira River, which ran roughly parallel to the Tapajos, 
farther west. An engineer for the first company to undertake this task called the 
Amazon a "chamel house,''' with workers "dying like flies" as they tried to build 
a rail line that "ran through an inhospitable wilderness of swamp and porphyry 
ridges." Even with the "command of all the capital in the world and half its 
population, it would be impossible to build the road." A series of other 
companies were engaged to finish the job until one finally did, in 1912, just as 
the boom collapsed. All told, it cost $30 million and took ten thousand lives 
— one, it is said, for every tie that was laid.— 

When the line was completed, workers, including a number of West Indians, 
were left abandoned in the railroad work camp of Porto \elho, which had grown 
into a small, destitute city. At the news that Ford was hiring, many headed down 
the Amazon and then up the Tapajos to the plantation. Added to these stranded 
West Indians rail workers were migrants who came directly from Jamaica, 
Barbados, and Saint Lucia. 

They arrived at a camp where many of the same conditions that sparked the 
riot in late 1928 continued — poor housing and working conditions, particularly 
for those hired to clear the jungle, confusing pay schedules, and bad food 
— aggravated by strident attempts to regulate hygiene and enforce Prohibition. 
In June 1929, a knife fight broke out between a Brazilian worker and Joseph 
Hippolyte, a migrant from Santa Lucia, as the two men waited on line to receive 
their wages. Hippolyte stabbed the Brazilian, whose friends retaliated by nearly 
beating the Santa Lucian to death. 

In his report to Sorensen, the increasingly beleaguered Oxholmseized the 
moment to showcase his decisiveness. He blamed the brawl on Brazilian racism, 
saying that it was impossible to make native workers toil alongside "foreign 
Negroes." As YUlares did the previous year, Oxholm claimed that his quick 



actions had headed off a riot, telling Sorensen that he gave all of Ford land ia's 
West Indians some travel money, loaded themon a lighter, and sent them 
downriver. 

"We think you will agree with us," he wrote, hedging behind the plural, "that 
on such occasions as these a quick and decisive policy is better than dilly- 
dallying and waiting for events which may prove to be disastrous." 

The British consul in Belemdisagreed. He wrote to Henry Ford saying that 
Oxholm's emphasis on Brazilian prejudice diverted attention from his already 
well-known incompetence. The diplomat pointed out that for decades West 
Indians had worked on large-scale railway and public works projects 
throughout the Amazon valley "on friendly terms alongside their Brazilian 
fellows." He also contested Oxholm's claim that the plantation had covered the 
travel costs of the exiled workers to "wherever they wanted to go." At least half 
paid their own fare to Belem, where they found themselves "strangers in a land 
of which they did not speak the language." Many were stranded at the mouth 
of the Amazon in a "more or less destitute condition." As a result of Oxholm's 
actions, he said, Ford could no longer count on Her Majesty's assistance in 
securing Caribbean workers. 

"I invite the company," the consul concluded, "to consider whether, in the 
circumstances described, in preference to sacrificing justice to expediency, they 
do not feel themselves bound, at least morally and equitably, if not legally, to 
assume some responsibility for the loss [to the West Indian workers] their 
action has involved."— 

Qxholm, though, had more pressing matters to worry about. Rubber planter, 
construction manager, town planner, health care provider, Prohibitionist, the sea 
captain had yet another responsibility to discharge: undertaker. 

By the end of 1929, ninety people had been buried in the company cemetery, 
sixty-two of them workers and the rest "outsiders who had died on the 
property." Most of the deaths were from malnutrition and common disease. But 
lethal snakebites, fromvipers especially, infections fromant, hornet, or vampire 
bat bites, and, before proper shelters were built, jaguars, which occasionally 
snatched babies right from their hammocks, all made the plantation especially 
dangerous during those early years. Oxholm's maid had her annbitten off by a 
caiman and bled to death while bathing in the Tapajos. And the company was 
responsible for interring all who died on the plantation, not just workers. As 
Oxholm explained to Dearborn, Brazil's civil code required that "if strangers 
come to our property and we render them aid we are responsible tor their burial 
in the event of death" — a law that invoked a bond between death, community, 
and soil reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's observation, made in a novel 
about the foundation of another doomed town, that "a person doesn't belong 
to a place until there is someone dead underground." A year later, there were 
three times as many graves — including four that contained Oxholm's own 



children. 

BYTHE END of 1928, it seems that Ford — who once claimed to have 
invented the modem world and all that went with it — found himself in much the 
same position as did Spanish and Portuguese conquis tad ores centuries earlier: 
presiding over an enormous land grant populated by quite a number of 
dependents. Friend Ford had become Lord Ford. 



CHAPTER 12 
THE FORD WW OF THINKING 

TO FORD'S PEOPLE BACK IN DEARBORN, THE CONFLUENCE OF 
EVENTS in Brazil hampering the development of the plantation — threats to 
revoke export tax exemptions, seizure ofseeds, levies of import duties, 
rebellious workers, and relentless bad press — seemed like a conspiracy, a 
confirmation of preexisting prejudices many ofthemhad about doing business 
in Latin America. What to do? The decision to invest in rubber cultivation had 
been based on the assumption that Ford's Amazon operation would pay for 
itself, not with latexat first but with the sale of lumber or minerals. But mounting 
costs and floundering construction proved such a forecast wildly optimistic. 
Already by the beginning of 1929, Ford had spent over a million and a half 
dollars with little to show for it. An even greater concern than the money was 
Ford's reputation, for newspapers and newsreels had already announced the 
imminent rescue of the Amazon from the "scrap heap of civilization." So with 
Henry Ford "exercised" about import duties, and Charles Sorensen "annoyed" 
by Oxholm's inability to resolve matters, the company did something Ford had 
always been loath to do: it turned to Washington for help.- 

The Ford Motor Company had extensive overseas business interests. Yet 
remarkably it had no contacts, either formal or personal, with anyone in the 
State Department. Edsel had to go to Herbert Hoover, now president, while the 
company's chief lawyer, Clifford Longley, approached Attorney General William 
Mitchell, asking to be put in touch with the right people. Out ofthese inquiries, 
Sorensen obtained a meeting with Dana Munro, the assistant secretary of state 
for Latin America. But when he traveled to Washington to ask for help in 
putting pressure on Rio, Munro treated Sorensen coolly. This was perhaps to 
be expected considering the company's long history of cold-shouldering US 
diplomats. Whatever the reason, the assistant secretary considered Ford's 
Brazilian tax problem routine and simply sent off a perfunctory directive to the 
embassy in Brazil to render whatever assistance possible. To little effect. The 
American ambassador, about to sail to Europe on his summer vacation, had left 
his considerably less influential deputy to handle the matter- 

With no help from Washington forthcoming, Ford appointed William 
Cowling as his personal representative and dispatched him to Brazil to make 
things right. A loyal "Fordling"— as midlevel executives without official title 
were known — Cowling was but the first of many such fixers Dearborn would 
send to Brazil over the next couple of years.- 



Cowling arrived in Rio on August 8, 1929, and spent the next nine days 
meeting with government officials and other "people of importance." He wasn't 
looking for a quick settlement. He sensed that the game would not be won by 
legal or moral righteousness. Although Sorensen and other company officials 
saw Ford's problems in Brazil as all connected, Cowling knew they sprang from 
different sources, especially fromconfused lines of authority separating state 
and federal jurisdiction. It was the national government that imposed import 
duties and embargoed building material sent fromDearborn, while the state 
governments applied export taxes. Who had the power to impede interstate 
commerce and seize Ford's seeds was anybody's guess, and Cowling left that 
issue to be decided by Brazil's Supreme Court. 

Cowling, who both in allegiance and in manner was decidedly not a Harry 
Bennett man, quickly under-stood that the issues at play were not necessarily 
captured in the reports and newspaper clippings sent to Dearborn. He moved 
carefully and in his meetings with officials didn't push for an immediate answer 
on specific matters like the import duty dispute, preferring to let the lawyers 
who worked for the Ford dealership in Rio resolve the matter. The larger 
problem, he guessed, was that Ford agents, particularly those in Belem 
associated with the plantation, mostly kept to themselves, doing little to 
establish friendships with Brazilian politicians and businessmen. He decided to 
focus on making contacts, building goodwill, and so laying a "thorough 
foundation for future action." Cowling hoped to "educate Brazil to the Ford way 
of thinking," not arrogantly, as that phrase suggests, but rather by convincing 
local opinion makers of the sincerity of Ford's motives.- 

AS HE LEFT Rio, sailing north on a slow boat around Brazil's eastern bulge, 
past the city of Recife to Belem, Cowling had time to reflect on what he believed 
was the root of the company's problem He put down his ideas in two lengthy 
letters to Henry Ford and other top-level company officials.- 

First off, Cowling wrote, Fordlandia was located far from Rio de Janeiro, the 
center of "Brazilian thought," and what people there "know about it, orthink 
they know, comes to them in an underground way, full of scandal of all sorts, 
detailing the worst improprieties on the part of plant managers and other 
Americans." Outrage over the revelations ofkickbacks and bribes was not 
really the issue; the "fact that we paid for certain worthless concessions" was 
appreciated as "good business ability on the part of those who sold to us." 
"Official Brazil" was not so much indignant over the corruption as disappointed 
in Ford's business skill. And that Ford subsequently made a big deal of 



"absolute honesty" in all trans actions, ofrefiising to indulge in "petty graft," 
only added to the disenchantment. It seemed the carmaker had followed up 
credulity with naivete. 

This, Cowling believed, led to a second, more serious perception problem 
Many "higher-up Brazilians," having read Ford's books and interviews, 
couldn't reconcile what he said with the stories they heard fromFordlandia, 
tales of lost opportunities, mismanagement, wild parties, and "drunken revelry, 
not by natives but by our own men." Such gossip wouldn't matter for any other 
company. But Ford's self-promoted reputation for rectitude and efficiency set a 
high bar. 

When Cowling assured Brazil's minister of agriculture, who hailed fromPara 
and was an ally of Governor \&lle, that Henry Ford was "taking a personal 
interest" in Fordlandia, the minister said that he was glad to hear it for he 
"feared up to this time that he was not." Cowling asked him to explain, and the 
minister replied because he had "read Mr. Ford's books very carefully" and 
therefore had the idea that Ford's "success was due chiefly to the fact that 
nothing was allowed to be wasted." And yet there were reports of the 
squandering ofresources in the Amazon, including "thousands of dollars worth 
of wonderful trees which had been burned in clearing the land." If the United 
States didn't need the lumber, the minister said, surely Brazil could use it. 

Cowling warned Ford not to underestimate the political intelligence of 
Brazilian officials. "We must never get the idea that those in power in Brazil are 
not shrewd," he said. They "match up very well with those we meet in 
Washington." But neither should Ford equate this cunning with mere venality. 
Whatever problems the company had in Brazil, they had little to do with 
corruption. "They never forget BraziL" he said of the country's leaders, 
revealing an ability to appreciate the complex issues facing local politicians 
usually beyond the reach of most Ford men. If "they are corrupt, it is not in 
such a small way as in interfering with us. There are always bigger things than 
playing with one industry." 

The problem was rather the company's actions, which had nurtured a 
bemused detachment among Brazil's political class. Every politician Cowling met 
with seemed to be reading fromthe same script. They first expressed great 
admiration for Henry and Edsel and graciously accepted the gift of signed 
photographs of the two Fords that Cowling presented on Henry's behalf. Then 
they apologized for not being able to help since the concession didn't fall under 
federal jurisdiction. Next they claimed that they hadn't really been following 
events along the Tapajos. Then they offered telling criticisms and 



recommendations. "They know more about our progress," wrote Cowling, "than 
some of us do, but they never admit it, for to do so would be to place 
themselves in the position of having to express an opinion" — and so far the 
bungling of the Ford Motor Company didn't deserve such a commitment. 

"And so," Cowling concluded, "out of all this chaotic talk has come a sort 
of indifference on the part of political influences, a decided suspicion on the 
part of newspapermen that we were not all we claimed to be, and back of it all 
the idea that in the end we would do what every one else has done before us, 
exploit the country to the fullest extent." 

UPON ARRIVING IN Belem, Cowling shifted tactics. In Rio, Brazil's political 
and cultural capital, not wanting to seem imperious, he wisely decided not to 
push the issue of import duties, preferring to let the matter wind its way through 
the courts. But in the provinces, Cowling's solicitousness gave way to a hard 
line. He met with Valle, letting him know in clear terms that Ford would pull out 
of the Amazon if the governor's harassment continued. Wle blinked, and on 
the key issue of export taxes the two men reached a compromise: the plantation 
would hold off from exporting anything for two years, after which it would be 
exempt from duties, as per the terms of the original concession. Following this 
settlement, a month later, Brazil's Supreme Court ordered the release of Ford's 
seeds — though this was a symbolic victory, since most of the gathered seeds 
had gerrninated.- 

Much encouraged, Cowling next traveled to Fordlandia to see for himself if 
what Brazilian officials had told him was true, if the plantation was really in as 
bad shape as they said it was. And sure enough, what he found after a long and 
listless trip up the Amazon, first to Santaremon a steamer, and then to the estate 
on a company launch, made a mockery of everything the Ford Motor Company 
and its state-of-the-art River Rouge plant stood for: efficiency, synchronization, 
orderliness, smart use of resources, discipline, and independence. 

Within a few weeks of Cowling's September 1929 visit to Fordlandia, Henry 
Ford would preside over Light's Golden Jubilee, a celebration to mark the fiftieth 
anniversary of Thomas Edison's invention of the incandescent lamp. Five 
hundred invitees attended the commemoration, including John D. Rockefeller, 
Marie Curie, Orville Wright, Will Rogers, Gerard Swope, the president of General 
Electric, Julius Rosenwald, the head of Sears, Roebuck (who years earlier had 
been singled out in the Dearborn Independents anti-Semitic campaign), J. R 
Morgan (whomFord had attacked as a warmonger), President Herbert Hoover, 
and, of course, the eighty -two-year-old Thomas Edison, who had taken a break 
from work at his Fort Myers, Florida, laboratory, where he was still trying to find 



substitutes for tropical rubber. The event nominally tookplace at Ford's 
recently constructed Greenfield Milage, the model town near the Rouge 
composed of historical homes and buildings imported from other locations. But 
the celebration really took place all over America and beyond. Albert Einstein 
addressed the crowd by radio from Germany. In a live coast-to-coast broadcast, 
an NBC announcer dramatized the moment that Edison lit the first electric bulb 
in his Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratory. Acros s the country, Americans were 
urged to participate by shutting off their lights, gathering around their radios in 
the dark, and then switching themon when they heard the cue: "Mr. Edison has 
two wires in his hand; now he is reaching up to the old lamp; now he is making 
the connection. ... It lights ! Light's Golden Jubilee has come to a triumphant 
climax." The extravaganza, which was held on October 21, a week before the 
stock market crash, was to mark not just the invention of electric light in 1879 
but the half century of dizzying technological innovation that had followed, 
including the telephone, motion pictures, the internal combustion engine, the 
transistor, and the automobile.- 

Backon the Tapajos, Oxholmwas having trouble keeping lit the string of 
bulbs that hung over the few bedraggled streets he had carved out of the 
jungle. Equipment and tools unloaded from the Onnoc and Farge lay scattered 
around the grounds, and there had been no attempt to do an inventory or set up 
a checkout system Theft was rampant. Oxholmhad still not constructed a 
permanent dock or central receiving building, so additional material shipped 
from Belem or Dearborn piled up on the riverbank, likewise unsupervised. Bags 
of concrete sat on the banks, "hard as a rock."- 

Trees had been cut back from the riverside, but the underbrush remained 
untouched, hi the thousand acres cleaned and burned for planting, charred, 
black stumps, which Oxholm didn't bother to pull up, mingled like darkened 
tombstones among the emerging seedlings, making the plantation look like an 
untended graveyard. The captain had built some houses, but not nearly enough 
to meet the needs either of workers or of managers and their families. The 
hospital building had "sunk on its foundations and leaked terribly." The soggy 
office doubled as a residence for its staff, with luggage stored on the porch for 
lack of closet space. There was no place for visiting Brazilian officials to sleep, 
so they strung their hammocks where they could. One married American couple 
slept in an "old seed shed." Another threatened to leave if the company didn't 
provide them with a decent house. As Oxholmhad yet to assemble the 
refrigeration plant, keeping food fresh for a labor force now well over a 



thousand remained a problem- 

Throughout May, June, and July, Qxholmhad rushed to meet the 
concession's July 1929 deadline for planting a thousand acres with rubber. But 
Manaus's seizure of Ford's seeds forced him to use local seeds of dubious 
quality, and he did so at the beginning of the dry season, the worst time to plant 
aibber. In his haste to meet the terms of the contract, Oxholmsent gangs of 
workers to spread out across the cleared jungle armed with sticks, one end 
whittled to a point, which they jabbed into the ground to make planting holes. A 
second team followed behind, dropping either hastily gathered seeds or 
seedlings from a makeshift nursery that one British observer said were 
"ruthlessly torn out of the ground" and then left under the "hot sun" for "two, 
three, and even four days." In agreeing to a July deadline, Ide and Blakeley had 
no idea, and if Vfllares had he didn't let on, that the clearing of tropical jungle 
best takes place in the dry season and the planting of rubber in the wet. Having 
started work on Fordlandia in early 1928, the Ford men had only one dry season 
(June to December 1928) to prepare a thousand acres for planting during the 
subsequent rainy months, which in effected shortened the July deadline to April 
or May. That Oxhotmwas planting at the beginning of the dry season was of 
course not his fault, considering the mess Blakeley left him, the difficulty of 
securing a stable labor force, and Manaus 's seed embargo. Nor could he have 
known that Blakeley 's abundant use of gasoline to fire the felled jungle had 
scorched the soil of the first lot cleared, adversely affecting its ability to nurture 
healthy rubber. It didn't help that a few months earlier Oxliolm had driven 
Rainiundo Monterro da Costa, one of the few people with rubber experience in 
Ford's employ, off the estate after an argument over planting techniques. By the 
end of 1929, it was clear that, while having met the concession's requirements, 
Fordlandia 's first planting would have to be plowed under and "planted with 
better seeds at the right time."— 




A terraced hillside in Foidlandia planted with rubber. 



The sawmill posed problems for Oxholmas well. Blakeley before himhad 
indeed, as the minister of agriculture complained to Cowling, begun clearing 
land during the rainy season. The plantation was littered with "huge piles of 



green wood" that could be neither burned nor cut into lumber because the felled 
wood was too big, too soft, or too wet. In addition, neither Blakeley nor Oxholm 
had properly graded the 254-mile road leading from the plantation clearing to the 
sawmill. When the rains turned the road into mud, as they did most every day, 
the plantation's tractors couldn't haul the logs to the mill. Even when workers 
lay cut trees over the worst stretches, creating what lumberjacks call a corduroy 
road, it was still slow going. And when they did get through, they could 
transport only about eight to ten logs at a time. With gasoline at forty-eight 
cents a gallon, the cost of moving wood within the plantation alone was 
proving to be prohibitive- 
Like Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the Tapajos valley is filled with mixed 
stands of broad-leaved trees about a hundred feet in height, with robust, shade- 
providing crowns and straight trunks relatively free of branches. Yet unlike in 
Michigan, where most species were neither too hard nor too soft and fell within 
a profitable range, much of the wood in the Tapajos was either too pulpy or too 
dense to be usable. Some of the largest trees, like angelim, were often hollow. 
And Michigan saw blades, when they didn't rust from the humidity, were no 
match for the hardest of Brazilian hardwood. A "round-saw would scream 
halfway through a giant log and stop dead," reported a manager, while a "band- 
saw would melt into smoke." Being Ford men the managers did what Ford men 
do when confronted with an obstacle: they ordered a speedup. Running double 
fast, the "saws shook down their stations and almost wrecked the mill," blowing 
out the electric generator and delaying work until Dearborn could send 
hardened blades. 

Also unlike the Upper Peninsula, which counted on average about six 
different tree types per acre, the Tapajos contained about a hundred different 
species within the same space. Sawyers quickly realized that potentially 
profitable trees were never grouped together but scattered throughout the 
forest. And the forest was so thick with trees, climbers, and vines that four or 
five trees would have to be cut and yanked before a clearing could be made for 
a free fall. "It cost too much," remembered one lumberjack, "to get in here and 
there through the timber to get the kind of wood that was any good. You 
couldn't walk ten feet into the woods without cutting your way. It is just a mass 
of jungle and vines." 



Miking a high cut on a big tree. 

So Oxholm began to purchase lumber for his construction needs, which 



meant that the plantation was not only failing to generate income from timber 
but actually losing money to purchase it. And since the unsettled customs duty 
issue made the importation of value-added material expensive, Oxholmhad no 
choice but to buy raw timber in Brazil and mill it at the plantation. He ended up 
purchasing wood from local indigenous villages. The Ford Motor Company may 
have been bringing the techniques of centralized and synchronized mass 
industrial production to the Amazon, but for at least a time it relied on jungle 
dwellers using little more than crude hand axes to supply its would-be rubber 
plantation with lumber.— 

At this point, Henry Ford, who had pioneered innovative conservation 
methods in his timberlands in the Upper Peninsula, intervened directly. He 
ordered an end to the burning of wood, demanding that logs be milled and 
stored until "such time as world prices make it salable at this end, and at a 
profit." But Fordlandia's sawyers had little experience storing hardwood in a 
humid environment, and the sun-dried lumber quickly rotted and warped. Edsel 
Ford quietly countermanded his father, allowing for the burning of all wood that 
was "worm-eaten and rapidly decaying."— 

And Oxholmhad no more luck than did Michigan officials enforcing Ford's 
"absolutely no tolerance" liquor policy. He tried to evict the "squatters," as 
company officials now called titleholders who wouldn't sell, and to shut down 
bars and brothels. But faced with what the New York Times described as "small 
uprisings" of machete-wielding protesters, he backed down. Efforts to keep 
workers off liquor boats also resulted in the threat of "armed resistance on 
several occasions," according to Oxholm, who turned to Brazilian authorities for 
help. But all they did was point out that Prohibition was a US, not a Brazilian, 
law. They also criticized his hypocrisy since, as they pointed out, the 
Norwegian captain and his foremen were known to like their drink. Balking at the 
attempt by Fordlandia's managers to "apply Prohibition to Brazilian workers 
without accepting it themselves," a local magistrate ordered Oxholm to let the 
liquor boats dock alongside Ford's property. When plantation managers turned 
to the itinerant Catholic priest to help preach against drinking, he refused. "For 
heaven's sake," he said, "Fm not a Baptist."— 

So despite the concerns of Brazilian nationalists who thought that the 
concession granted too much autonomy to Ford, the plantation found itself 
caught in a relationship with the rest of the Amazon similar to the one Third 
World countries often have with the First: extreme dependency. Oxholm 
depended on a detachment of Brazilian soldiers equipped with machine guns 



and other arms to keep order. Stuck in the middle of a rain forest yet requiring a 
steady flow of money to pay workers and suppliers, he depended on the Belem- 
based Bank of London and South America for twice-monthly cash shipments. 
Nowhere near close to the standard of self-sufficiency Ford set for his village 
industries back in the United States, Oxholm depended on Indians who lived 
along the Tapajos to supply the camp with fish and produce and on local 
merchants for cattle and other food. Though he had access to a few boats, 
including a speedy Chris-Craft, to go back and forth to Santarem(and 
Urucurituba), Oxholm depended on local ancient wood-burning steamers to 
bring goods and people to the plantation. "The words slow, inadequate, 
aggravating, etc. hardly express what could be said regarding this matter," was 
one Dearborn official's description of his trip up the Amazon.— 

Over and over, Fordlandia's managers found themselves reliant on outside 
support, unable to replicate either the extreme independence pioneered by Ford 
and Sorensen at the Rouge or the Emersonian ideal of self-reliance embodied in 
Ford's community factories and mills. 

THE DAY BEFORE he left the estate, Cowling summoned its staff and 
"lectured them severely for their lack of organization and efficiency." He was 
harsh on Oxholm, whomhe found overbearing and arrogant and unwilling to 
offer direction to his managers and foremen. Cowling condemned the lack of 
organization that had produced "waste of various kinds which is appalling." 
With no leadership or plan for moving forward, the plantation's foremen, he 
said, were turning in circles. On numerous occasions during his short stay, 
Cowling had seen four or five members of the staff deep in conversation for 
extended periods of time over matters of relatively little importance, and even 
then they often didn't come to a decision about what to do next. 

"Many things," Cowling scolded Oxholm, "are begun and then not followed 
up and to say that your entire operation is costing at least fifty percent more 
than it should is putting it mildly."— 

Cowling urged the Norwegian captain to act in a way that would repair the 
"moral reputation of the Ford Motor Company" and to live up to a "higher 
sense of duty to the Company as well as a keener idea of personal 
responsibility in your work." "You are a long ways from your old home, but you 
must cany on just as if the eyes of the home office were upon you." 

The home office, in fact, never took its eyes off Oxholm, and Sorensen 
followed up Cowling's visit by firing off cable after cable demanding an 
accounting. 



"Do you yourself use intoxicating liquors of any kind?" Sorensen asked 
Oxholm. ''Have you any intoxicating liquors in your possession, either in your 
home or elsewhere on our property? What was the trouble on this liquor 
question? What about conduct of other officials of the company with reference 
to this same question that I applied to you? Do any of themuse intoxicating 
liquor? What is the reason for this long delay in answering letters?" Sorensen 
ended this barrage demanding immediate answers "without any evasion."— 

Oxholm had had enough. His sister Eleanor and wife, Cecile Hilda, had 
joined him toward the end of 1928, along with his son Einar and three 
daughters, Mary, Marcelle, and Eleanor. By the end of 1929, three of his 
children — Einar. Mary, and Eleanor — had died in an epidemic of an unnamed 
fever. In early 1930, a second son, also named Einar, died at birth. Sorensen's 
cables grew increasingly shrill, but by then Oxholmhad stopped replying to 
them In May he eitherquit or was fired — company records are silent on the 
matter — boarding the Ormoc, along with his brokenhearted wife and their 
surviving daughter, Marcelle, to sail backto the United States. Upon arriving in 
New Orleans, he continued on to Dearborn, where he met with Henry Ford, 
debriefing him on the rubber plantation and asking if there was another ship he 
could captain. Ford said no, and Oxholm returned to New Orleans to once again 
work with the United Fruit Company. 

Fordlandia, Oxholm would later say, was "the hardest proposition I have 
ever tackled in my life."— 

WILLIAM COWLING LEFT Fordlandia in late September for Rio and sailed 
for Dearborn on October 2. A request from a New York Times reporter for an 
interview before he left was met with refusal, which the paper "interpreted as 
indicating he found conditions discouraging." Though he had managed to 
establish some goodwill in Rio, negotiate a compromise on the issue of export 
taxes, and identify what the problems were in Fordlandia, other troubles 
persisted. Governor \alle continued to refuse to read the concession as giving 
Ford the right to expropriate the property of settlers who wouldn't sell. Nor 
would he force Francisco Franco, the merchant patriarch of the island of 
Urucurituba, across the river from Fordlandia, to part with Pau d'Agua, the small 
village that the Ford Motor Company felt had become the source of much of the 
plantation's vice. And while the import duty issue was supposedly settled 
through the intervention of Ford's Rio representative, customs inspectors at 
Belem were still holding up material that they deemed unrelated to the "refining 
of crude rubber or the manufacture of aibber products."— 



Then the company's fortunes received an unexpected boost. In October 
1930, a revolution brought Getulio Wgas to power. "Vargas , a reformer who 
would dominate Brazilian politics for the next two decades, creating the modem 
Brazilian welfare state, is often compared to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The 
Vargas government passed labor legislation, regulated the financial sector and 
other areas of the economy, and generally presided over the strengthening of 
the central government. In the United States, Ford would come to detest FDR 
and his New Deal for implementing many of the same policies. "Vet in Brazil, 
Vargas's ascension meant mostly good news for Ford, as it signaled the end of 
the excessive federalismthat had the Ford men tied in knots trying to address 
problems in Belem, Manaus, and Rio. 

The ripples of the revolution were immediately felt in the state of Para. 
Though the revolutionaries were nationalists and therefore suspicious of 
foreign capital, they were also modemizers, hostile to the regional oligarchs who 
ruled each state as if it were their own personal fiefdom. Ford posed a particular 
conundrum He was both a modemizer, promising to bring capital-intensive 
development to the backwater Amazon, and a man who wanted to run his 
namesake property with sovereign autonomy, like the rubber lords who didn't 
like Rio meddling in their affairs, Vargas cut through this dilemma. Soon after 
coming to power, he replaced Valle with someone sympathetic to Ford. He also 
confirmed Ford's land concession, a good sign considering that he canceled all 
foreign contracts in Para except for Ford's and one other. It took somewhat 
longerto resolve the sundry tax issues, as Ford lawyers continued to debate 
with officials howto interpret the minutiae ofBrazil's customtaxlaw. Eventually, 
in a series of decrees in 1932 and 1933, Vargas granted Fordlandia its long- 
sought import and export duty exemptions- — retroactively, which was key since 
by the time of Vargas's dispensation the company, according to Cowling, had a 
"couple of million dollars charged" against it.— For the foreseeable future, Ford 
could count on a relatively supportive government and a predictable tax 

91 

structure.— 



CHAPTER 13 

WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE 
FOR A GOOD JOB? 

HENRYFORD, EVER READYTO CHALLENGE COMPANIONS TO A foot 
race or a fence-jumping contest, represented, as both icon and huckster, the 
freedom of movement that distinguished American industrial capitalism from its 
European equivalent. "All that is solid melts into air," Karl Marx wrote in the 
middle of the nineteenth century to describe the revolutionary potential of 
capitalismto break down feudal hierarchies and the superstitions that justified 
them But Europe took a considerably longer tine to thaw than the United 
States : in no other country had national identity become so closely associated 
with movement — whether horizontal, that is, the march west and then overseas, 
or vertical, the idea that those bom to the lowest ranks could climb power's 
peaks. 

There would be inventors of faster machines than his motor car. Yet nobody 
could claimto have transformed, at least in such a noticeable way, nearly every 
realmof daily life, from the factory and field to the family. And for capitalism's 
sake he did so in the nick of time. Just as industrial amalgamators like John D. 
Rockefeller were declaring that "the age of individualism is gone, never to 
return," Ford came along to put the car — a supreme symbol of individualism 
— in reach ofrrrillions. "Happiness is on the road," Ford said. "I amon the road, 
and I amhappy." 

Ford peddled change as if he were the head not of a motor company but of 
the Metaphysical Club. "Life flows," he remarked in his cowritten 
autobiography. "We may live at the same number on the street, but it is never 
the same man who lives there." The myth, of course, didn't come close to 
matching the reality, for what some came to call a "new industrial feudalism" 
intensified existing prejudices and created new fomis of exclusion and control, 
including those perfected by Ford himself. "The Ford operators may enjoy high 
pay, but they are not really alive — they are half dead," mourned the vice 
president of the Brotherhood of Electrical Engineers in 1922. Ford responded by 
justifying his antiunionismnot in the language of reaction or even primarily in 
that of efficiency but rather by assigning to it the essence of true "freedom": 
"The safety of the people today," he said, also in 1922, is that they are 
"unorganized and therefore cannot be trapped." But if most of his employees 



had been reduced to cogs in the greater machine called Fordism, for a few 
mobility was more than a promise^ 

Charles Sorensen — handsome as Adonis, thought a colleague, and 
"masculine energy incarnate," wrote a historian — started out working at Ford's 
foundry pattern shop in the old Highland Parkplant. By the 1920s, his 
engineering intelligence had combusted with a "burning passion for 
advancement" to catapult him to the pinnacle of company power. Sorensen 
jockeyed for position with Ford's other lieutenants, including Edsel Ford and 
Harry Bennett, and became the executive force behind Rouge production, as 
well as assuming a large role in the running of Fordlandia.2 

Others who didn't make it that high nonetheless had new vistas opened to 
them \4ctor Perini, a twenty-year-old son of Sicilian peasant immigrants, was 
apprenticing as a toolmaker with the Richardson Scale Company in Passaic, 
New Jersey, when he heard froma friend that the Ford Motor Company needed 
workers. So he and his wife, Constance, headed for Detroit. It was 1910, and the 
company was still operating out of its first plant on Piquette Avenue, then 
producing a hundred Model Ts a day. 

"Can you use a toolmaker?" \ictor yelled through the plant's gates. "Oh 
yes, we can use a toolmaker," came the answer. He was hired at thirty-five cents 
an hour.- 

As Perini's engineering know-how matured into a reserved yet meticulously 
observant managerial style, he was promoted to help ran Ford's copper radiator 
factory and hydroelectric damon Green Island, in the Hudson River near Troy, 
New York, then sent to Manchester, England, where he oversaw the 
manufacture of the British Model T, and on to Iron Mountain, where he built an 
airstrip before becoming manager of Ford's state-of-the-art sawmill. 

"We covered a lot of places during the years that my husband was at 
Ford's," Constance recalled of Mctor's career. "The company was more than 
generous in arranging accommodations for our comfort and convenience. We 
always went first class." She remembered with gratitude that "because ofthis 
the entire family has had experiences that are not often duplicated." But there 
was one not-so-comfortable place Ford sent them 

VICTORFIRST LFA.RNED about Fordlandia from Henry Ford himself, when 
his boss visited the Perinis at their home in Iron Mountain in late 1929. "You 
would think that he owned everything around here," said Henry to Constance 



as he surveyed the photographs of Ford factories that hung on their living 
room wall. Over their kitchen table, Ford, having himself been recently debriefed 
by Cowling, told \4ctor about the mess Qxholmhad made of things in Brazil and 
asked him to check on the sea captain and relieve him of his duties if necessary. 
Perini immediately said yes. 

The first thing Perini did was tap other workers he wanted to bring with him, 
and he did so with the same kind of informality that got himhis first Piquette 
Avenue job. One morning a few weeks after Ford's visit to his home, Perini, 
along with another ton Mountain manager named Jack Doyle, ran into the 
tousle-haired second-generation Irish sawyer Matt Mulrooney on his way to 
work.- 

"What would you give for a good job, Mulrooney?" asked Doyle. 
"A cigar," Mulrooney responded without nissing a beat. 
"Coite on and give it to me." 

"I haven't got the cigar on me. Mr. Perini, you've got some in your pocket. 
Lend me one." 

Perini did and Mulrooney handed it to Doyle, who "sprung this 
proposition" on him "about going to South America." 
"What do you say?" they asked the sawyer. 

"I haven't got anything to say. If I'm of more use to the company down 
there than I amhere, I'd be a damn poor stick if I wouldn't go. They've been 
feeding me here quite a while. It would be a good thing to go down there and 
eat off them for a while." 

"Well, that's pretty good," said Perini, who later described Mulrooney as a 
"gentlemanly young man." 

"Don't say anything about it now for a while," Perini told his recmit, "later 
on, we'll see." 

Mulrooney proved more obliging than did Perini's wife. Constance was tired 
of packing up house as they moved from one post to another and wanted to 
"live at the same number on the street" for just a bit longer. "You go by yourself 
this time," she told her husband. 

"Okay, you can stay here," victor said. But Ford overruled him Dearborn 
had by then received word that the drinking and gambling of Fordlandia 
managers was mitigated somewhat by the "presence of American woiren." 
Wives were having a "beneficial effect on the general appearance of all the men 



here," a Fordlandia manager wrote. Even the "whiskennania" that had gripped 
Americans cut free fromMichigan's clean-shaven decorum waned in their 
presence. Ford's nen and machines would civilize the Amazon, but Ford's 
woiren were needed to civilize his men.- 

"Where you go," Ford told Perini when the two men met later in Dearborn to 
discuss specifics, "your family goes with you." \ictor nodded and phoned 
Constance back in Iron Mountain. "I guess you better get ready." 

THE PERINIS' TRIP, in early March, was nothing like Ide and Blakeley 's 
gentle roll to Belemtwo years earlier. Off the coast of Florida, the Ormoc ran 
into a hurricane. Lashing rain drenched the ship, whose motors were no match 
for the whitecaps washing over its deck. Unable to make steerageway, the boat 
drifted hundreds of miles into the Atlantic. Pitching and rolling "all day and 
night," the Ormoc tossed cargo into the sea as the passengers huddled in their 
cabins. 



The Per'mi family. 

It took two days for the ship to right its course, and another two weeks to 
arrive in Belem The Perinis and their three children stayed at the Grande Hotel, 
which was the best in the city yet still a place where spiders could be found in 
the bedclothes . Belem's Ford agent, James Kennedy, told Constance to get used 
to it. In the Amazon, he said, "the cockroaches follow the ants, and the mice 
followthe cockroaches. Everything takes care of itself, don't worry about it." 

After a rough night in a soft bed, which gave out under Victor's weight, the 
Perinis were "glad to get back on the Ormoc because it was nice and clean 
there, even though traveling was rough." Both the Amazon and the Tapajos are 
broad rivers, in places vastly so. In a work published just that year, the Brazilian 
writer Jose Maria Ferreira de Castro noted that the Amazon makes perspective 
impossible. Instead of appreciating its vast panorama, first-time observers 
"recoil sharply under the overpowering sensation of the absolute which seems 
to have presided over the formation of that world." And as the Perinis made 
their way up to the plantation, the wide sky combined with long stretches of 
dense forest to weigh on Victor's mind. He complained of the tedium as they 
passed endless low banks with "no hills of any kind and nothing but trees and 
vines visible." The view was intemipted only by occasional villages, most 
derelict and some deserted. The family was traveling during the rainy season, 
when the Amazon just below Santaremis at its widest and the constant green of 
the shore at its most distant. During these months, the floodplain spills over 
into the forest, creating half-submerged islands and a "vast flow of muddy 
water," as the writer Roy Nash, who made the trip just a few years before, 
described his impression. Sailing as close up the middle ofthe waterway as 
possible, voyagers on oceangoing ships often miss the sublime, radiant 
sensation many experience under the rain forest canopy; traveling on a crowded 
boat, wrote Nash, one is even cheated ofthe "poignancy of solitude. "-After 
leaving Santarem, the Ormoc's captain, unfamiliar with the Tapajos 's shifting 
channels that make it difficult to travel even when the water is high, ran the ship 
aground and was pulled free by a tug only after "considerable eftbrt."- 

Vctor was even les s taken with Fordlandia, and whatever recoil he might 
have felt on his voyage from the human emptiness ofthe jungle was intensified 
when he confronted the amount of work the place needed. His first impression 
upon leaving the dock was of tractors and trucks "wailing in mud," s lipping and 



sliding on roads that weren't graded, drained, or surfaced properly. The rain was 
constant, and the wet heat, without the relief of a river breeze, overpowering. 
"There is so much to be done that it looks hard to decide where to start. ... It 
will be necessary," he thought, "to start a railroad line at once," along with 
houses, schools, and a receiving building.- 

DESPITE PERIM'S INITIAL impress ion, and despite first Blakeley's and 
then Oxholm's clumsy administration, Cowling's lecture had had a galvanizing 
effect on Fordlandia's managers and the project of transforming the jungle into 
a settlement and plantation had advanced considerably. The labor situation had 
stabilized somewhat, and by the end of 1930 Fordlandia employed nearly four 
thousand people, most of themmigrants from the poverty- and drought-stricken 
northeast states of Maranhao and Ceara. Before he departed, Cowling 
delegated more authority to the engineer Archilaus Weeks, who had arrived in 
Fordlandia in 1929fromFord's L'Anse lumber mill, located on Lake Superiorin 
Michigan's Upper Peninsula, to take charge of construction.- 

Under Weeks 's direction, a recognizable town had begun to take shape 
along the Tapajos to replace Blakeley's work camp. Having pulled up the 
stumps and burned the undergrowth along the river frontage, Weeks organized 
a more efficient system to receive material and process potential employees. 
Workers had begun to lay pipes and wires for water, sewage, and electric 
systems. The sawmill and powerhouse had been completed, and the watertower 
was rising. About thirty miles of roads crisscrossed the property, pushing into 
the jungle. Work was underway on a 3,200-square-foot dining hall to replace 
the shambles of a mess hall left by Blakeley. The old lopsided hospital was torn 
down, and in its place was built a sleek new clinic designed by Albert Kahn. 
And soon after his arrival, Perini took charge of supervising the construction of 
what would be a three-mile-long railroad, cutting through the estate's many hills 
and linking the sawmill to the farthermost field camps, which were charged with 
clearing more land for rubber planting.- 

Dearbom had also finally sent a topographer down to do a proper survey 
and identify the best location for a "city of at least 10,000 people to cover about 
three square miles." Though Fordlandia was going on its third year, the 
construction of permanent houses for its Brazilian workers had not yet begun. 
Single laborers lived in bunkhouses or in holdout towns like Pau d'Agua along 
the plantation's periphery. A few took up residence across the river, on 



Urucurituba island, and paddled to work every morning. Married workers mostly 
lived in the ever metastasizing "native village" stretching along the river. The 
largest, rambling part of this settlement was made up of the families of the 
plantation's common laborers. They slept and cooked in one-room thatch 
houses, some ofthemreinforced with planks pried off discarded packing crates. 
Children, mothers, fathers, and other relatives hung their hammocks like 
radiating spokes froma central pole; the cooking fire's smoke damaged their 
lungs but protected themfrommosquitoes. Better-paid workers — hospital 
orderlies, coffee roasters, cooks and their helpers, waiters, log loaders, 
swampers, deckmen, firemen, gardeners, painters, oilers, janitors, sweepers, 
clerks, bookkeepers, stenographers, teachers forthe Brazilian children's school, 
draftsmen, boat pilots, meatcutters, tinsmiths, and blacksmiths — lived in slightly 
nicer houses, often made of milled wood, but also with thatched roofs and dirt 
floors. As the workforce increased, the town grew haphazardly, with packing 
crate planks recycled as boardwalks, laid over a midway that turned to mud in 
the rain and baked into ruts in the sun. 





Top: An "ambulance" arrives at Fotdlandia's hospital, designed by Albert Kahn. Below: 
The scene in the hospital ward. 

By 1930, the plantation's lines of administration had evolved into a rrore or 
less settled routine. Oxholm, who either decided or was told to leave the 
plantation two months after Perini's arrival, was still the nominal manager, yet 
work was organized through a number of departments : "plantation," "gardens," 
"construction," "sawmill," "transportation," "general stores," "kitchens," 
"clerical," and "medical." Americans, Europeans, and skilled Brazilians presided 
as managers and assistant foremen over work gangs of Brazilian laborers, who 
mostly remained naireless as far as company records were concerned so long as 
they didn't try to organize a union, steal, or cause some other kind of trouble. 
Archie Weeks oversaw the largest part of the labor force, the men who did the 
hardest, most exhausting, and often deadliest work, beating back the jungle, 
quarrying stone, cutting underbrush, sawing trees, burning the wood waste, 
tilling the ash and soil, and planting new blocks of rubber. Weeks developed a 
"rare knack of training the natives to do his work," according to his personnel 
file. He was a "driver," but in a way that "made his men like it," which may very 
well have been the case since most credited him with whatever progress Perini 



saw upon his arrival. 

In other areas of plantation life, however, efforts to accustoma fast-growing 
labor force to Ford-style regimentation, discipline, and hygiene generated 
tensions, often aggravated by brusque and antagonizing managers. Oxholm, for 
instance, had organized a ten-man "service department" to enforce Prohibition, 
dispatching his agents to do spot searches of the bunkhouses and bungalows 
and to confiscate any stashed liquor. Kaj Ostenfeld, who was from Denmark but 
had worked for five years as a cashier in a Rio Ford dealership, was put in 
charge of the camp's payroll. His rude impatience in explaining certain 
deductions frombiweekly wages, including for food service, compounded the 
resentment single men already felt about having to eat in a crowded mess hall 
(married employees who lived in the plantation's riverside village were allowed 
to eat at home). And though Dr. Colin Beaton was respectful in his dealings with 
his patients, his efforts to make the plantation village conform to certain 
hygienic standards were felt to be radically intrusive. Before coming to 
Fordlandia, most of the workers had been destitute but at least had the freedom 
of living as they saw fit.— 

At Fordlandia they found themselves subject to the dictates of "sanitation 
squads" and "medical teams" that roamed the camp, draining and oiling 
potential mosquito breeding sites, killing stray dogs, checking for gonorrhea, 
and swatting flies . Inspectors swept into horns to make sure that food was 
correctly stored, that latrines were kept clean, and that all knew how to use, and 
properly dispose of, company-provided toilet paper. Their efforts to prevent 
families fromsleeping in the same roomwhere the cooking fire was kept not 
only were impractical, since the company had not built multiroomhouses, but 
ignored the local practice of using the smoke to protect frominsects. Inspectors 
fined families that didn't keep the small, crude pig and chicken corrals in front or 
on the sides of their houses clean and insisted that women hang wet laundry on 
clotheslines . Dr. Smith, a pathologist Dearborn sent down to assist Dr. Beaton, 
believed that the common practice of laying items flat on the ground to dry 
helped transmit hookwonnand other soil parasites. 




Dr. and Ms. Smith show off a collection of butterflies, tarantulas, and other jungle 
fauna, 

BEHIND THE NATIVE village, to the left if one's back was to the river, stood 
a dozen or so clapboard bungalows where European, American, and Brazilian 
engineers, foremen, and sawmill workers lived. Among them, working in the 
plant and seed division, was David Serique, the son of Julio Serique, a Tangiers- 
bom Jewish emigre who helped Harry Wickham gather the Tapajos seeds that 
ended Brazil's dominance of the world's rubber supply. Also at the estate were a 
few of Santarem's Southern Baptist Confederates, who in an odd historical turn 
first encountered northern industrial regimentation in the Amazon. During the 
plantation's first bungling years, members of this community provided 
indispensable support, provisioning it with goods and interpreting local 
language and culture for its managers. David Riker acted as a translator and also 
ran the plantation's cattle yard and stockyard. Pushing seventy, he is described 
in his personnel file as an "older man than the Company would usually employ 
to put in charge of so large a work."^tet his intimate knowledge of the Tapajos, 
along with the fact that since his father had established a small rubber farm on 
the outskirts of Santaremhe was one of the only people around with experience 



in cultivating Hevea, compensated for his age. "Healthy and active," with 
"several good years ahead," Riker, aside fromhis service as labor recruiter and 
interpreter, presided over the "cleanest native camp on our premise." Three of 
his sons moved to Dearborn, where they took jobs at the River Rouge. As the 
oldest man in the camp, Riker had the honor in early 1928 of planting 
Fordlandia's symbolic first seedling in a patch of cleared forest. A dozen or so 
workers stood in a circle as the old man pushed his spade into the soil with his 
foot, turned it, set the seedling in the hole, and patted the soil back in. He then 
said a few quiet words asking that the Lord bless the tree and make prosperity, 
for the plantation and the valley, flow from its bark- 
Many of Fordlandia's skilled workers were "prosperity boomers," who, 
having arrived in Latin America to help dig the Panama Canal twenty years 
earlier, passed from one job to another. They traipsed through the jungle and 
desert frontiers, finding easy work in the US-owned mines, railroads, oil fields, 
and plantations that were spreading out across the continent. At each new job, 
they waxed about the glories of the last, and at the end of the day, over beer 
and whiskey, they "persisted in digging the Canal again" in tales that grew taller 
with every retelling. Others first came to the Amazon to work on the Madeira 
-Mamore railroad and then stayed on. Texas cowboy Jimmy James, for example, 
had been living in Belemwhen he befriended Reeves Blakeley and signed on to 
his work crew. Fordlandia also attracted a number of "American and European 
renegades" fleeing their pasts. The Frenchmen Wes Efira, who did Fordlandia's 
clerical work and was considered a "splendid linguist," was rumored to be an 
escapee fromDevil's Island, the prison island located just off French Guiana. 
Additionally, the plantation hired a number of veterans who for one reason or 
another had landed in Brazil after the war. One of them, a machinist named 
Sullivan, "never missed an opportunity" to talk about "Paris and the wonderful 
French girls." But he didn't get along with Mueller, an Austrian draftsman. 
Tensions between the two men boiled over, and after one fight the machinist 
took the Austrian's clothes and suitcases fromthe bunkhouse and threw them 
"outside in the mud fromthe torrential rain." Mueller quit the plantation soon 
after.-±2 

Most of these migrants were engineers and mechanics, bringing years of 
experience working in the jungle to the plantation. But it was hard to check 
credentials on the Tapajos, so a few professed to have talents that they didn't. 



A Dane named Simonsen claimed to be a rubber expert and said that the best 
way to protect seedlings from insects was by rubbing ^seline on their trunks. 
"He succeeded in getting rid of the insects, but the trees died too, so he was 
given a pink slip," according to one personal account.— 

By the time Fordlandia got fully under way, life for quite a few "tropical 
tramps" had turned desperate. In the 1910s and 1920s, they had "boomed from 
job to job," ever ready to quit one because they knew they could always "find 
work at the end of the trail." But after 1929, Europeans and Americans were 
likely to arrive at the mines, plantations, and railroads less boisterous and more 
hungry, searching not for adventure but for steady work no longer available in 
their home countries. Increasingly during the Great Depression, they found 
work sites to be unaccepting of the indulgences and pleasures associated with 
the drifting life of skilled itinerants. Mining and plantation companies had 
learned the importance of hiring married men, beholden to women and children, 
as a way to maintain a stable and responsible labor force. Corporate-run 
company towns grew "more and more respectable, more and more conscious of 
the ugliness of sin," as a travel writer who passed through the region put it. 

Fordlandia 's puritanism was especially hard on Jack Diamond. Like Jimmy 
James, Diamond first arrived in Brazil to build the Madeira-Mamore railroad, 
before moving on to other large infrastructure projects, eventually drifting over 
the Andes to take ajob in Chile's copper mines. With the onset ofthe 
Depression, though, Diamond found himself out of work and stranded. 
Bumming his way back to the Amazon, he hoped to get work again on the 
Madeira-Mamore line, only to find it "virtually dead," practically killed, first by 
the collapse of rubber prices and then by the global recession. After all the 
human lives wasted to build it, it was by 1930 running only one train each way 
every two weeks. He traveled down the Madeira River to Manaus. There, a 
group of expatriates raised a collection to stake hima ticket to Fordlandia, since 
"Henry Ford had a reputation of never refusing work to any man who came to 
his rubber plantation in search of it." But Diamond couldn't reconcile himself to 
Ford's "new morality," including his attempt to ban drinking and smoking. The 
shock was not of physical withdrawal: everybody from the head manager to 
common laborers got around Ford's prohibition, and Diamond could always find 
a drink on what the skilled workers called rum row — the boats, barges, and 
canoes that served as floating bars and gambling houses bobbing just off the 



plantation's shore — or on the Island of Innocents. It was rather, as one of his 
contemporaries put it, that Fordlandia's strictures forced on him the realization 
that he had "outlived his day," that "time had passed him by and that there was 
no longer a place for him in this world."— 

So he quit the plantation and boarded a cattle steamer back to Manaus . As 
the ship slowed to approach the city's dock. Diamond looked down from its 
upper deck into its brown waters and saw his way out. He climbed over the 
railing and leaped into a congregation of crocodiles. 

SET EVEN FARTHER back from the river were the "modem wooden 
houses" that Oxholmhad built for the American staff, with porches and sloping 
front yards, on a wide street lined with mango trees, sidewalks, and streetlamps. 
These residences sat on a high spot on a bend in the river about a mile and a 
half from the dock and had stunning views in two directions ofthe Tapajos. 
Within a few years, this neighborhood would have a clubhouse where the men 
played cards and pool, a hotel for visiting guests, a tennis court and swimming 
pool, a movie theater, and a golf course. Compared with the "veritable Babel" of 
the skilled workers ' international camp, as Eimar Franco described it, this 
compound, aside from the occasional European like Oxholm, tended to be 
insular and homogeneous. The Texan Jimmy James married Oxholm's sister and 
Kaj Ostenfeld wedded his Brazilian secretary, yet those who came directly from 
Ford's Michigan operations tended to keep to themselves. Having visited the 
town with his father, Eimar Franco rerrembers walking in and thinking the 
Americans to be a race apart. "They were very white, blond with blue eyes, and 
spoke a different language," he recalls. "It was as if the earth had been invaded 
by beings fromanother planet." One traveler through the area at the time 
compared them unfavorably to the Confederates, who though they built their 
own Baptist churches lived huddled together in a group and maintained their 
southern drawl and faded gentry manners, married Brazilians, and produced new 
generations of "American faces and gray eyes chattering Portuguese on 
Santarem's streets." In contrast, the nidwestemers at Fordlandia had erected a 
"wall of provincialism" around themselves.— 

Most never really mastered Portuguese, beyond learning how to conjugate 
the imperative fonnof a small number of verbs. Ajoke among Brazilians who 
lived on the plantations went: "What do the Americans learn how to say after 
their first year in the Amazon?" "Uma cerveja." A beer. "And after two years?" 



"Duos cervejas? — 

Iii the United States, the men and women Ford sent to the Amazon were 
decidedly working- or lower-middle class, accustomed more to showing 
deference than to receiving it. Even those who had a certain amount of status 
back home, like Dr. Beaton, who before being transferred to Brazil worked in 
Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital, were not used to sitting at the absolute top of 
the social ladder as they did in Fordlandia. For men like Perini and Weeks, 
charged with building a plantation and company town, the change in class 
position probably elevated their sense of self-worth. For the women, however, 
the shift was disconcerting. Suddenly finding themselves serviced by a 
complete domestic staff, including cook, washerwoman, housecleaner, nanny, 
and "choreboy," they quickly succumbed to boredom Illiterate in Portuguese, 
the wives couldn't even enjoy the pleasure of speaking the language of 
command to their servants, who competently went about their jobs with little 
direction. "Frankly, I believe that one of the troubles with the ladies," wrote one 
staff member back to Dearborn, is that "for themit is a listless, useless life, 
nothing to do, and they have not the energy to do anything, due to the climate, 
which is undoubtedly of an insidious nature." 

Some Americans, in particular children, took happily to the adventure the 
Amazon offered. Leonor Weeks, Archie Weeks 's daughter, was eight when she 
arrived at the plantation. She loved her time at Fordlandia and today considers it 
the most interesting part of her long life. She remembers swimming in the 
American pool, which was right by her house, and playing golf with her father. 
She suffered from one bout of malaria but didn't think it much worse than the 
flu. She did hate the "horrible hairy spiders" that often got in her house. If she 
ever came across a snake, she just did what her father taught her and let it pass. 
Unlike their parents, American boys and girls socialized with Brazilians, 
attending the plantation's schools along with the children of Brazilian workers, 
and some, like Charles Townsend, who was bom in Fordlandia in 1938, grew up 
speaking Portuguese as their first language. (When Townsend returned a few 
years ago to visit the house he lived in, now home to hundreds of bats, he 
couldn't believe that he had survived such humidity.) The younger Leonor was 
tutored at home, but she too learned Portuguese and rode bikes with the 
children of her servants. Her fondest memory of the time at Fordlandia is of 
Chico, her pet monkey, which she describes as different frommost, with "long 



black hail - and bangs." Leonor tookChico with her when she returned to the 

States, much to the delight of her M ichigan sch oolmates.— 

PIO\EERS OS WAY TO SETTLE IS FORD'S JtiSGLE EMPIRE 



Fo/d pioneers on their way to the Amazon but dtessedfbr Mchigan winter. 

As to the adults, Curtis Pringle, a lean ex-sheriff fromKalamazoo, Michigan, 
who sported a thin Clark Gable mustache and was described by a colleague as 
"absolutely fearless in the jungle," stayed for over a decade, earning a 
reputation as a practical-minded foreman. Dr. Beaton, thirty-one and single, also 
enjoyed the assignment, sweetened as it was by having his pay tripled from 
what he earned in Detroit. When his first tour was up, he signed on for another 
two-year turn. He put himself to learning Portuguese and soon spoke the 
language more fluently than any other Michigan transplant. "Extremely well 
liked," his personnel file said; Beaton "fit his job like an old shoe." And, 
importantly considering the high attrition rate of Americans due to jungle 
illnesses (he replaced Fordlandia's first doctor, who couldn't stand the heat), he 
enjoyed good health.-lS 

The sawyer Matt Mulrooney was also never sick, not even for a day during 



his year in Fordlandia. His immediate supervisor thought he had a "chip on his 
shoulder," but what was interpreted as disaffection was in fact a wry Irish sense 
of the absurd. Mulrooney thought it was funny that he could turn on his radio 
and listen to American music patched in from the United States via relays in 
Managua, Nicaragua, and Santa Marta, Colombia. One night, he and his wife 
danced to a Rudy \allee concert broadcast live from Green Bay, Wisconsin. 
America's original pop idol, \allee was the first singer to master the intimate, 
disembodied tone of new radio technology. At the time of his Green Bay 
concert, he was riding high on a parade of movie musicals and hit songs, 
including "I'mjust a \agabond Lover" and "Deep Night," the lyrics of which 
wafted through Fordlandia 's American village, as Mulrooney held his wife 
close: 

Deep night, stars in the sky above 
Moonlight, lighting our place of love 
Night winds seem to have gone to rest 
Two eyes, brightly with love are gleaming. 



Deep night, whispering trees above 
Kind night, bringing you nearer and nearer and dearer 
Deep night, deep in the amis of love. 
"Where others have played to thousands," ran the ad for one of the 
singer's movies, "\allee sings nightly to millions," including those who found 
themselves deep in the Tapajos valley, his voice competing with the nighttime 
sounds of howler monkeys, frogs, and a cacophony of crickets.— 




The Milmoneys. 

MANYOF THEAirericans, though, did not welcome their posting to the 
Amazon. The jungle pressed heavy on them, with its incessant rains that gave 
way to baking sun. "It was like living in a steambath!" thought Constance 
Perini. There were flying bugs with "claws just like lobsters," heat rashes and 
sunburns, insect bites, ticks, skin funguses, and dysentery. The Ford staff was 
introduced to an array of minor pests bearing strange names, such as piums, 
smallbiting black flies, as well as minuscule fleas that dug under fingernails, 
leaving their eggs to fester and infect the skin. At night, vampire bats often 
worked their way past window screens to feed, and since their razor-sharp 
incisors could painlessly pierce flesh, the Americans would sleep through an 
attack, waking up to find their toes and ankles bloodied. And if malaria didn't 
get you, the nightmares brought on by the daily quinine pills would. "Dope 
every day," was how Mulrooney remembered the prophylactic. 

Illness, often the kind of undiagnosed fevers that took the lives of Oxholm's 



children, became a chronic condition. William Cowling was just one of the 
company officials who returned to Dearborn gaunt after some time in the 
Amazon. Malaria became as common as a Detroit cold, and many of the men 
and women spent their days recovering from an attack or expecting a new one. 
"Some had malaria two or three times," recalled one worker. "Rogge had it three 
times. Brickerhad it I don't know how many times. Casson had it. They all had 
it." 

Dr. Beaton sent a steady flow of telegrams to Dr. Roy McClure, his Dearborn 
superior and head of surgery at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital: 

Mrs. Oxholmhas had recurring attacks apparently cholelthiasis 
(gallstones) probably also functional nervous disturbance. One 
aggravates other. Needs also considerable dental work her daughter 
needs tonsils extracted. Recommend both go Ford hospital soon. 

Mr. Carr's son had a recurrent attack of acute rheumatic fever with 
cardiac decompensation during the voyage up the Amazon River. 

Advisable to return Mr. Babcock by first available boat he continues 
to lose weight. 

Mrs. Johnston keeps losing weight, she was 127, and is now 106. 1 
have tried to persuade her to go home, but she is not keen about that, 
however. 

Mr. and Mrs. Runge are leaving for Miami. Mr. Runge did not get 
along too well in this country but that may be the fault of the country. 

Mrs. Bradshawhas suffered during the month from gastric 
hyperacidity with attacks of dull hunger like pain accentuated if 
anything by meals and relieved temporarily by alkalis. At times the 
highly acid stomach contents are vomited with relief. . . . [Her illness is] 
provoked by the nervous strain inherent with life here. She is very soon 

returning to the States The unrelieved stretch of two years work 

under tension in a tropical climate is too long and its effects continue to 
manifest themselves. The cities of Belemand Manaus are no health 
resorts but visits to them or . . . quiet rests on ranches, hunting trips, 
etc. . . . would steady nerves, calmruffled tempers, distract attention 
frompetty exasperations and infuse one with new and more worthwhile 
interests. 

For some, the isolation of the plantation increased fears bom of loneliness, 



making some feel as if they were "prisoners." Moody and unable to 
concentrate, Mr. Groth, a chemist doing lab work on parasitical infections for the 
plantation, kept asking to be allowed to return to the United States. His 
supervisor dismissed his complaints as "imaginary ills" stemming froma fear of 
catching some of the diseases he was studying. "Take hold of yourself," he 
scolded Groth, telling him that "as a man thinks so he is." This may not have 
soothed the chemist's nerves, but it did keep him quiet for a while. But when he 
again demanded to be allowed to leave, management relented. "We are not 
trying to persuade him any more. We believe he is lonesome and has had some 
trouble with his sweetheart and he feels that he can't cany on."— 

The most striking defection was Mctor Perini's . Henry Ford had hoped Perini 
would turn things around, but Perini couldn't take the Amazon heat. He hated 
the jungle and fromhis first day in Belembegan to suffer from"edema of legs 
and puffiness of face." 

"Awaiting instructions," a distressed Dr. Beaton wired Dearborn, "on what 
to do with Mctor Perini." Diagnosed with chronic exhaustion, \ictor eventually 
tookhis family and sailed back to Dearborn in May 1930 on the Ormoc, only 
two months after his arrival. 

MOST OF THE rubber Oxholmhad planted in the middle of 1929, during the 
dry season, under the hot sun in burnt ground, with seeds and seedlings of 
doubtful quality, had cone up weak. And in April, before he left the plantation, 
Perini had decided to plow the field over and start again. Which meant that it 
would be at least another five years before Fordlandia would produce latex The 
lumber mill, too, was a mess, its blades and saws ill suited for the very hard or 
very soft jungle wood. Hired to be a sawyer, Matt Mulrooney felt more like an 
undertaker: "They averaged about a man a day dying. I used to get orders every 
so often to cut this lumber for coffins. There was a certain thickness and a 
certain width they used to make the coffins out of. They'd bring an order up 
every so often and give it to me. I'd say, 'What, some more of them gone?' 
'Yep, better fix up for about ten, Matt.' " 




Fordlandia cemetery . 



Like many of the other men Ford sent to Brazil, Mulrooney belonged to the 
generation of skilled carpenters, miners, and lumberjacks that had presided over 
the trans fonnation of Michigan's natural resources into wealth; they had seen 
the conversion of the state's forests, minerals, and waterways into the energy 
and capital that fed the great industrial factories and cities of the Midwest. 
Sawyers like Mulrooney had witnessed in their lifetimes the seemingly 
inexhaustible white pine forests of upper Michigan thin out, leaving first inferior 
stocks of yellow pine, birch, and deciduous aspen and then wastelands of 
cutovers, trunks, shrubs, and branches of no economic value. Yet they also saw 
the rise of cities that spoke of prosperity enjoyed not just by the lords and 
barons in the manor houses of Chicago and Detroit but by increasingly affluent 
working- and middle-class communities that spread out from these cities.— 

So Mulrooney could take pride as the gnarl of the Amazon gave way, s lowly, 
to the order of the plantation. "You know, an old sawyer likes the looks of a 
sawed log," he said. "There was some nice-looking logs there, some nice- 
looking timber, awful nice-looking. To go out and look at a bunch of that timber 
cut up in the woods, it was really a picture to look at, straight and not a limb or a 



knot in it." 

But the sawyer also knew that a "very, very big percentage" of the cut wood 
was "no good." Watching the absurdity of it all — Oxholm's bungling, the 
silliness oftrying to impose Henry Ford's ideas concerning diet and morality, 
the enonnous expense and waste of resources, the impossibility of making the 
mill work right — Mulrooney had a distinct sense of futility. At the end of the 
workday, he and his pal Earl Casson, also fromlron Mountain, would "grin and 
wonder how we'd ever wound up in a madhouse, or if we'd ever win. We 
tagged it as a game." 



-More than a half century earlier, Henry Wickham wrote about the sensation 
of sitting in the forest and gazing up at the "leafy arches above" and becoming 
"lost in the wonderful beauty of that upper system — a world of life complete 
within itself." The British explorer Charles Luxmoore, traveling up the Tapajos in 
1928 trying to locate Percy Fawcett, complained incessantly in his journal about 
everything he encountered — people, food, insects, heat, and the landscape. Yet 
upon taking a hike in the forest, "lit up by the sun," he pronounced it "very 
beautiful." "I would not have missed this part of the journey for anything," 
Luxmoore conceded. (Joe Jackson, The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, 
Power, and the Seeds of Empire, New York: Mking, 2008; 99; Devon Record 
Office, Exeter, UK, Charles Luxmoore, Journal 2, 1928, 521 M-l/SS/9.) 



CHAPTER 14 
LET'S WANDER OUT YONDER 

IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO TELL THE STORY OF FORDLANDIA 
WITHout invoking Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness , that great, indelible 
allegory of European colonialismin general and Belgian brutality in particular. 
Here, the Rouge River stands in for the Thames, the starting point of Conrad's 
tale, and the Ormoc for the Nellie, which carries Marlow to his rendezvous with 
tropical madness. Any number of Ford agents — Blakeley, for instance, or 
Oxholm — could double for Kurtz, defying the "whited sepulchre" of Dearborn 
puritanismand giving in to their lusts. 

Yet there's something more Mark Twain than Joseph Conrad, more 
Huckleberry than homicidal, about the stories of Ford men lost in the 
wilderness. Consider Mr. Johansen, a Scot, and Mr. Tolksdorf, a German, 
dispatched to gather rubber seeds in September 1929 by Ford's envoy William 
Cowling. Their mission was urgent. After the disaster of Captain Oxholm's first 
planting, the two men were charged with locating groves of high-yielding 
rubber trees, gathering their seeds, and returning in time to plant them by the 
coming May, before the rains ended. Traveling with a Brazilian assistant named 
Victor Gil and a "Negro cook" named Francisco, the two Europeans cut loose 
their Brazilian underlings a month into the trip. Gil they abandoned in a two-hut 
village, and Francisco they put ashore on an uninhabited island.- 

Johansen and Tolksdorf headed to Barra, a small rubber town at the 
headwaters of the Tapajos. With the idea that it would be "nice to have a 
highball or two" on the coming New Year's Eve, they ordered wine, whiskey, 
and beer and paid for it with company funds . They proceeded to get 
"intoxicated and remained that way most of the time throwing money away and 
making fools of themselves in general." One night, Johansen stumbled into a 
trading post, where he purchased several bottles of perfume. He then headed 
back out to the town's one street, swerving back and forth as he chased down 
cows, goats, sheep, pigs, and chickens. Baptizing the livestock with the 
perfume, he repeated the benediction "Mr. Ford has lots of money; you might 
as well smell good too." 

After about a week, the two renegades contracted a launch, loaded it with 
Ford-bought whiskey and a prostitute they hired as a cook, and set off on what 
sounded more like a "vagabond picnic than a rubber seed gathering 
expedition." They continued their riverine ribaldry from village to village, one 
smaller than the next, until they landed in a government area set aside for the 



Mundurucu Indians, centered on a Catholic Franciscan mission. There 
Johansen established himself as the "rubber seed king of the upper rivers," 
using a crew of about forty Indians to clear underbrush and gather seeds. 

FORD MANAGERS, LUCE European colonialists in Asia and Africa, were 
fixated on race. Ernest Iiebold, after all, advised Ford to plant rubber in Brazil 
and not in Liberia largely because of his low opinion of Africans. "She has just 
a touch of the 'tar-brush,' " wrote O. Z. Ide in his diary after meeting the 
Brazilian wife of a Belem-based British exporter. Others who followed Ide used 
the words nigger and negroes freely and, according to historian Elizabeth Esch, 
plotted workers by skin color on a spectaimthat ranged from "lameness" to 
"savagery." When Archibald Johnston, who would shortly become Fordlandia's 
manager, wanted to send Henry Ford and other company executives some 
samples of rain forest wood, he had a "little wooden nigger boy" made from 
different specimens of trees found on the estate. Johnston said in a note 
accompanying the gift that its color was "all natural." Its cap, coat, teeth, and 
collar were made of pau marfim, a dense, cream-colored wood. Its head was 
carved from pau santo, a kind oftonewood. And the buttons were pau amarelo, 
or yellowheart. Ford's secretary thanked Johnston for the "nigger boy," saying 
that his boss was "very pleased" with the gift. "It is indeed a fine piece of 
work," Sorensen replied directly .- 

Yet instead of unleashing the kind of mortal racismthat gripped Kurtz, the 
jungle seemed to catalyze in Ford men another trait endemic to Americans: a 
blithe insistence that all the world is more or less like us, or at least an imagined 
version of "us." Here is the sawyer Matt Mulrooney commenting on workers, 
many of whom in the United States he would have undoubtedly considered 
black: 

Most of the people are white people. They are as white as we are. 
They are not colored up. Once in while you would run across a fellow 
and you could see he was smeared up with some other nationality. I 
wouldn't say it was Irish, or English, or Scotch or Dutch. I don't know 
what it was, but he'd have a different color on him You couldn't tell. 
There was a color there. He wasn't a smokey or a white face. Them are 
the best workers. The rest of the 3,300 people were all the same, all white 
generally, they are all white, sunburned or tanned. 

Nor were the Ford men seduced into thinking about the natural wonders of 
the Amazon in existential terms as markers of evil or human progress — as were 
so many travel writers . For Theodore Roosevelt, who valued the rough frontier 
or jungle life as character building, the Brazilian rain forest was simultaneously 



empty of the moral meaning created by civilization's advance and a cure for its 
corruption. But the men Ford sent down to build Fordlandia, and the women 
who went with them, largely avoided such musings. They did occasionally make 
mention of the tropical flora and fauna, yet often in the most prosaic way, 
commenting on the size of the bugs or the relentlessness of the heat and rain, 
and usually in mundane comparison with what they knew back in the States. 
Two decades after Constance Perini returned home, what still impressed her the 
most were the "black ants with claws just like lobsters" and the "largest flying 
cockroaches I've ever seen" — or, she said, "at least they looked like 
cockroaches."- 

Charged with transforming the jungle into a plantation, company managers 
were of course concerned with the Amazon's natural dimensions. They had to 
consider many variables— quality of the soil and level of the land, irrigation, 
potential for hydropower, density of mosquitoes- — -when choosing where to 
plant rubber, where to build the workers' settlement and town center, and where 
to place the factory and dock. Dearborn sent a steady stream of questions to 
detennine what equipment to ship: "What is the general tenacity of attachment 
of vines to trees and can they be readily pulled away from trees with heavy 
tractors or with a Fordson tractor?" "Is nature of soil such that trees will cling 
tightly to soil and carry a large portion of soil with roots if pulled up with 
tractors, or is soil loose and free enough to allow trees to be pulled out without 
leaving large holes which will require backfilling?" "What percentage of trees 
will be suitable for logging?" "What would be the cost of logging over 1000 
board feet using native hand labor without machinery?" "Ascertain sources, 
quality and quantity of stone, gravel and sand for concrete. Crushing strength 
and chemical composition of clean sharp sand, gravel, and limestone should be 
detennined." But the managers answered these questions with an unimpressed 
prose, unlike the kind of florid verse that the Amazon usually provoked.- 

The jungle tended to produce not apocalyptic reflections on man's place in 
the universe but rather a wistful homesickness, a constant comparison of the 
Amazon with Michigan. Mulrooney got a "big kick" when, upon his return to 
Michigan, his friends would say to him, "Oh, gee, Mulrooney, it must have been 
a wonderful place to fish and hunt, all woods." "Yep, fine place," he told them, 
"you couldn't get out in the woods to hunt. If you caught a fish, it wasn't any 
good. They were just a bunch of grease. Give me the fish in Michigan!" 
Whether Ford managers, engineers, and sawyers may have thought the jungle a 
gothic hell or a window on to the consuming indifference of the primeval world 



to the hurriedness of man, they mostly kept it to themselves. When they looked 
up and saw vultures, as O. Z. Ide did upon arriving in Belemforthe first time, 
they thought of Detroit pigeons. 

IF JOHANSEN AND Tolksdorf were comical Kurtzes, they were pursued by 
their own Michiganian Mario w. John R. Rogge. An "old time lumberjack' and a 
"natural bom mill man" fromthe Upper Peninsula, Rogge had been at 
Fordlandia since the first tree was felled in early 1928, having been sent by 
Henry Ford to join Blakeley's advance team Since he had survived with his 
reputation relatively intact both the opportunismof Blakeley and Villares and 
the ineptitude of Qxholm, Cowling, before he left the plantation, named Rogge 
assistant manager and told him to keep an eye on Oxliolm 

Rogge was in a staff meeting when Francisco, the marooned cook, showed 
up at the office with a tale straight out of a "dime novel.''' It was night when 
Johansen and Tolksdorf put Francisco on shore, and he didn't realize until 
morning that he was on an uninhabited island. To stay meant to starve, so he 
lashed some driftwood together and floated a full day downriver until he came 
upon the hut of a rubber gatherer, who gave him some food and shelter. He then 
bargained for a canoe, taking twenty-four days to reach the Ford plantation, 
"through dangerous rapids, tropical rains, and all of the hazards of travel on the 
Upper Tap ajos." After a short discussion among the staff, Rogge decided that 
the procurement of usable seeds was a top priority and that he would head an 
upriver expedition to search for the two wayward Ford agents.- 

Rogge was happy to go. Bom on a Wisconsin farm in Langlade County, he 
was one of nine boys, three ofwhommoved to northern Michigan to look for 
work in the timber industry. He felt at ease in the Tapajos valley, which, like 
Michigan's vast forests, was sparsely populated. If the Amazon was hot and 
humid, the eastern Great Lake plains of the Upper Peninsula were similarly 
swampy and moist and made miserable by horseflies and other insects during a 
good part of the summer. Rogge was also used to organizing life and work 
around the change of seasons: most of Upper Peninsular logging was done in 
the winter, when the cold hardened the roads and froze the swamps, allowing 
easier access into the forest. And he was no stranger to water transport: Like 
the Amazon, the remote Upper Peninsula was cut through with rivers, which 
before the arrival of the railroad served as the main arteries for loggers, who 
built camps on their shores.- 



John Rogge with young rubber tme. 

Rogge thought his "sleuthing of a Scotchman" and "a German" would allow 
him to escape the familiar routine of the work camp and leave behind the 
relatively unimpressive lower Tapajos for the real Amazon. Northern Wisconsin, 
where he grew up, is steeped in Native American culture and history. Yet by time 
the 'American lumberjack," as Rogge described himself, came of age in the 
early twentieth century, Great Lakes Indians like the Potawatomi, Menominee, 
and Ojibwa found themselves struggling to survive, victims of population 
decline, forced removal policies, and coerced assimilation. Rogge, therefore, 
hoped that his trip would provide an opportunity to encounter true Indians, of 
the kind that lived in the "real, untouched jungle." He gathered a team together, 



including a few Brazilians who knew something about seeds, and outfitted a 
small steamboat — open to the weather except for a small thatched sleeping 
cabin — with a two months' 1 supply of food and equipment. As they set off from 
Fordlandia, Rogge and his men made the most of what anthropologist Hugh 
Raffles has called "hospitality trails," routes long used by European and 
American explorers, scientists, and businessmen as they traveled around the 
Amazon. On these routes, native labor did the hauling, cooking, cleaning, and 
poling (when rapids prohibited the boat's passage), and planters, merchants, 
town officials, and priests provided shelter and sustenance.— 

Rogge was impressed with the skill of his barefoot and naked-to-the-waist 
boatmen, who occasionally had to jump overboard to push his boat through 
fast-moving water. He was less enthusiastic about his cook, also barefoot and 
dressed in a "pairofpants and ajacket that were so greasy and dirty that they 
interfered with his every movement on account of their stiffness." Rogge 
ordered him to put on clean clothes and to keep the cooking area neat and 
orderly, which he did, though he never learned to prepare eggs to the 
lumberjack's taste. 

ROGGE LEFT FORDLANDIA in early December 1930, traveling during the 
last stretch of the rubber season, the six-month dry period when latexis tapped, 
smoked, and sent downriver. He passed riverboats and canoes taking balls of 
rubber to trading posts. He slept in the houses of local merchants and traders 
and negotiated with local tappers to allow his crew to string their hammocks 
around the trappers ' huts. All of this gave him a firsthand view of the river's 
aibber economy. 

As in other areas of the Amazon, rubber trees were not planted but rather 
grew wild along the 1,235-mile Tapajos, particularly in its upper headwaters and 
floodplains. Making his way to these thick, rubber-rich groves, Rogge found 
that the sloping banks framing the river's wide lower reaches gave way to 
forbidding jungle overhang. Within a few days upriver of Fordlandia, the jungle 
became dense and the Tapajos narrowed to a gap, flanked by limestone cliffs 
and dotted with tree-filled islands. The river then climbed over a series of white- 
water torrents and falls that only low-draft boats, light enough to be poled, 
pulled, or dragged overland, could travel. For the first couple of decades after 
the 1835 Cabanagem Revolt, when the rubber trade took off, these obstacles 
had discouraged commercial exploitation. A Frenchman who made this trip in 
the early 1850s described "'roaring and terrible" rapids that "cross and recross 
and dash to atoms all they bear against black rocks" guarding the "deep 
solitudes" of the upper Tapajos. Yet by the 1870s, the diminishing yield of 



Hevea around the mouth of the Amazon, combined with increas ing world 
demand, prompted merchants and traders to push farther and farther into the 
valley, avoiding the rapids and falls by building portage paths through the 
jungle. In the early twentieth century, most of the upper Tapajos latextrade was 
dominated by one man, Raymundo Pereira Brazil, whose family had migrated to 
the region from the state ofMinas Gerais. At the height of the boom, Brazil 
owned two thousand rubber estradas, or trails. He controlled the river's 
workforce through debt bondage and monopolized trade and transportation 
route s.- 
Brazil's bankruptcy in 1918, following the collapse of latex prices, left a 
power vacuum on the upper Tapajos. Although abuses of workers continued, 
river residents were now in a position to better their lot by playing the remaining 
traders, merchants, and trail owners off one another. At the same time, the 
decline of the aibber trade forced many tappers, including no doubt Rogge's 
boatmen, to broaden their survival strategies, supplementing their tapping by 
gathering nuts, planting, fishing, supplying riverboats with wood for their 
boilers, and hiring out as crews on steamboats. 

Even with this diversification, the misery Rogge witnessed was intense. At 
every hut he passed, he saw poverty and disease, including chronic malaria and 
hookworm. Through a Portuguese interpreter he brought with him on the trip, 
Rogge heard the same kind of stories of abuse and exploitation LaRue told 
Henry Ford a few years earlier. Tappers complained about the low price of 
rubber and said that if they could save enough money for their passage they 
would leave their rubber trails and look for work in Brazil's industrializing south. 

ROGGE SET OFF in search of the realAmazon, yet no matter how far he 
traveled his thoughts continually returned to America. 

It took Rogge a few weeks to reach the trading post at Barra, the last 
reported location of Johansen and Tolksdoif, just below where the Tapajos 
breaks off into a number of lesser tributaries. The trip had been tedious, often 
taking hours to go just a quarter mile, with Rogge 's crew straining muscles to 
pole the thatch-roofed boat through currents, navigating around rocks, trees, 
and shallows . At a number of places , small cataracts forced the party to 
disembark and walk, and bearers hoisted the vessel above the cascade with a 
makeshift pulley. The more the boat slowed and the narrower the river became, 
the thicker the swarms of bugs. "From the rising to the setting ofthe sun," 
another voyager along these waters had written, "clouds of stinging insects 
blind the traveler, and render him frantic by the torments they cause." Rogge, 



too, began to complain of what seemed like an inexhaustible variety of 
mosquitoes, flies, gnats, and midges, most so small that netting provided little 
protection. Exhausted and sick from two weeks of quinine and his skin inflamed 
by bug bites, the lumberjack welcomed the hospitality of Barra's principal 
citizen, Jose Sotero Barreto, a well-off rubber trader whom Theodore Roosevelt 
met on his journey over a decade earlier and described as a "gentleman of high 
standing." Barreto gave Rogge room and board and did everything he could to 
make the Ford agent comfortable .- 

As he recuperated, Rogge enjoyed the pleasures of the manor, built high off 
the ground, with a broad veranda and glass windows. It was, he thought, the 
"best looking place" he had seen since leaving Fordlandia. Revived by a steady 
flow of tea, milk, and "plenty of chicken soup," he attended the nightly dances 
Barreto held in his parlor. Dining its golden years, the regional rubber 
aristocracy had been famous for its love of all things European, particularly 
Italian marble and Italian opera. But the bust dulled the old continent's appeal, 
and as the rubber lords looked north to America's booming car industry for 
salvation they also began to appreciate America's equally booming popular 
culture. The British explorer Charles Luxmoore, traveling up the Tapajos in early 
1928 in search of the lost Colonel Percy Fawcett, reported arriving at the small 
village of Mlla Nova to find people doing the Charleston.- And on offer every 
night on Barreto 's Victrola were, among other American standards, "My Ohio 
Home" and "Ramona," both recorded just the year before. To the recovering 
Rogge, the 78s "sounded rather good hundreds of miles from home."— 

At the end of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo- — that other tale ofupriver 
obsession — the title character, played by Klaus Kinski, stands on the deckof 
his decrepit riverboat as the turntable plays tenor Enrico Caruso singing "O 
Paradiso." The scene is meant to invoke civilization's fragile beauty in the face 
of what the Brazilian writer Jose Maria Ferreira de Castro described as the 
Amazon's "overpowering sensation of the absolute." But it's also meant to 
convey a deep resonance, a harmony, between that enormity and the opera's 
emotional baroque. Despite the foreign provenance of the aria, the image is 
inescapably embedded in the Amazon. 

Here, though, the music that Rogge listened to was purely nostalgic, not so 
much grounding him in the jungle as transporting him back home, or more 
precisely back to an America that was fast disappearing. In contrast to the 
sexualized, insinuating wooing of Rudy \allee that reached Mulrooney and his 
wife in Fordlandia, the lyrics that helped restore Rogge's spirits conveyed a 



restless discomfort with the artificiality of modem times. "I want to wake up in 
the momin'and hear the birdies say good morning, the way they always say 

good momin' in my Ohio home I want to wander in the moonlight and meet 

my sweetie in the moonlight." Such wanderlust waltzes orballads, often set in 
the American West (and just as often penned by European immigrants, as was 
the case ofGus Kahn's "My Ohio Home") provided an antidote to the urbane, 
topsy-turvy world of aggressive women and pleading men that populated Jazz 
Age crooning. They harkened back to an earlier era of proper courtship, before 
the coming of the electronic technologies that allowed soft-voiced effetes like 
\allee — no "old time lumberjack" he — to become sex objects, reaching directly 
into homes, bedrooms, and, starting in 1933, Ford cars.— 

"Ramona" wakened similar longings for authenticity. The song was based 
on the wildly popular 1884 Helen Hunt Jackson novel of the same name that 
transformed Native Americans into objects of nostalgia and Southern California 
into a major tourist destination, as generations of fans continue to this day to 
search out the places Jackson used as settings. Filmed three times by 1928, 
Ramona, which draws from Jacks oil's experience as a government agent 
investigating abuses against Native Americans, is an indictment of Anglo 
racism Its title character represents Old California's vanishing Mission Indian 
culture, a victimof white depredation brought by the Gold Rush, by "Americans 
pouring in, at all points, to reap the advantages of their new possessions" and 
driving the Indians off their land "as if they were dogs." As in the novel, the 
song yearns for a pastoral idyll, always just out of reach beyond the next valley 
or, if Rogge stretched his imagination, river bend: 

I wander out yonder o'er the hills 

Where the mountains high, seem to kiss the sky 

Someone's up yonder o'er the hills 

Waiting patiently, waiting just forme. 



Ramona, when the day is done you'll hear my call 

Ramona, we'll meet beside the waterfall 

I dread the dawn 

When I awake to find you gone 

Ramona, I need you, my own. 
Such melancholy provided a particularly apt sound track for Rogge 's travels 
in search of "real Indians," the ones who had long ago retreated deeper into the 
jungle, in flight from the kind of violence Ramona dramatizes as having had 
decimated Native Americans in Southern California and, for that matter, in 



Wisconsin and Michigan. A "sad legacy," Jackson wrote, "indissolubly linked 
with memories which had in themnothing but bitterness, shame, and sorrow 
from first to last."— 

AS HE CON\ALESCED in Barra, Rogge gathered evidence confirming 
Johansen and Tolksdorf 's Ford-financed drinking and whoring. He learned that 
the two men had headed up the Cururu River to its Hevea-heavy floodplain. 
There, they had set up a work camp, hired about forty Mundurucu Indians, and 
started clearing the forest undergrowth in order to gather rubber seeds. Though 
not fully recovered, Rogge was resolved to finish his assignment. 'T had yet," 
he told himself, "to see the first time that I was given a job that I couldn't 
handle." So he continued on their trail. The Cururu is tighter than the Tapajos, 
with a mesh of thick tangled creepers obscuring its banks. After a month of 
December rains, the forest was covered with water, and as the river narrowed, 
flies and mosquitoes grew denser and the sound of croaking frogs louder — Rio 
Cururu means River of Frogs, from the Tupi name for the poisonous and 
loquacious giant cane toads found throughout the region. It took Rogge about 
a full day to get to the Catholic mission, established by German Franciscans in 
1912 in the wake of the boom Still not feeling well, Rogge rested a few more 
days, dusting off his childhood German and enjoying heart-shaped Christmas 
pastry, or Kitchen, made by the nuns. 

Here then was as close as Rogge would get to the "real, untouched jungle" 
and the "Indians that were reported to be living there." The lumberjack 
observed the Mundurucu with a keen ethnographic eye. They lived mostly 
naked, he noted, tattooing their bodies from "head to foot with the juice of 
some berry and a thorn." Each had three ear piercings, filled with "wooden 
plugs." Women also pierced their lower lips, and mothers nursed their babies 
until they were three years old. Children married as early as nine years of age, 
and it was the "squaw" who did all the "heavy carrying" while the male 
followed behind with "his hammock, bow and arrow." Ford once observed that 
people don't "stay put," and neither did the Mundurucu, who moved closer to 
the river during the dry season and inland during the wet. Those not settled in 
the mission lived in small, itinerant groups often to fifty, "scattered throughout 
the forest in large palmhuts," under which they entombed their dead. When 
there was no more room for further burials, they abandoned the hut and 
established a new community elsewhere. Yet "untouched" the Mundurucu were 
not. 

Portuguese troops had defeated the contentious Tupi-s peaking Mundurucu 
a century and a half earlier, in 1784 in a battle that helped open up the Tapajos 



valley to Europeans, not just because it ended over a century of raids on 
colonial settlements along the river but because the defeated Mundurucu 
offered their services as mercenaries to pacify other uncooperative indigenous 
groups, including those who joined the 1835 Cabanagem Revolt. "And God 
requite the Mundurucu," wrote George Washington Sears, in his "Tupi Lament" 
commemorating the rebellion, "for on their heads shall rest the guilt of Indian 
blood by Indians spilt." This alliance with government forces, along with a 
reputation for "unalloyed, untempered savagery," as Robert Murphy, an 
anthropologist who worked in the region in the 1950s, put it, helped the 
Mundurucu survive the ravages of the rubber boom — unlike those starving 
refugees on the banks of the Xingu that Fordlandia managers considered, and 
then rejected, as a source of labor. Yet their numbers did decline rapidly over the 
course of the nineteenth century, by as much as 75 percent, leading to the 
abandonment of warfare as a way of life and an increasing dependence on the 
Franciscans for survival (though well into the 1950s, according to Murphy, "war 
was the favorite topic" of conversation among Mundurucu men, who traded 
stories of military strategy "as if it were yesterday"). By Rogge's visit, only a 
few thousand lived along the Cururu and in the inland savanna, along with a 
couple of hundred more around the Catholic settlement.— 

The Franciscans ' objective, like Fordlandia 's, was a civilizational one. The 
mission supplied clothing to its charges and set up separate schools for boys 
and girls. It also encouraged the establishment of permanent villages — urging 
what had been nomadic families to live in settled homes with individual garden 
plots — inoculated children with the latest vaccines, and promoted sanitation 
and hygiene. The homes directly under the Franciscans' care, Rogge noticed, 
"were very clean." Yet unlike Ford, the priests and nuns went about their 
evangelism with "some degree of tact and restraint," at least according to 
Murphy. It was not the kind of rash assault Ford hoped to launch on the 
preindustrial relations and sentiments of the people who lived in the Amazon 
but rather a slow subversion that transformed the ideas and social bonds that 
held them together as a people.— 



Mmdurucu mission children, with German nuns. 

The Mundurucu Rogge saw were nominally Catholic and accepted the 
authority of the mission as an institution. Yet Christian rituals and theology 
remained subsidiary to indigenous practices and beliefs. Priests baptized and 
confirmed Mundurucu children and established a proper Christian burial 
ground. Those Mundurucu, however, who lived outside the mission's 
jurisdiction ignored the admonitions of the missionaries and continued to inter 
their dead under the floor of the communal hut. The Franciscans urged their 
wards to take public Catholic wedding vows, and Rogge said the priests refused 
to perform marriage ceremonies unless the girl was at least fourteen and the boy 
sixteen years old. This was fine with the Mundurucu, who thought the public 
ceremony "embarrassing and shame-provoking" and made "every effort to 
avoid it." 

On Sundays, when outlying Mundurucu traveled to the mission to trade 
their rubber, the priests and nuns urged them to attend mass. Most did, 
motivated less by faith than by deference to the respected Franciscans. 
Children sat in the front with the nuns, men took the pews, remaining in a "rigid 



kneeling position" throughout the service, and women sat cross-legged on the 
floor of the center aisle, nursing their babies as the priest said mass. 

Well into the 1950s, the Mundurucu continued to have their own creation 
myth, as well as enchanted explanations for the mundane suffering and joys of 
life, some of which harmonized with Catholic theology: During the time before 
the beginning of time, they believed, gardens bloomed without labor and axes 
cut of their own accord and the only requirement was a divine injunction not to 
look directly at the work taking place. But the Mundurucu looked. The "axes 
stopped chopping, the tree trunks grew hard, and men thereafter have had to 
swing the axes themselves." 

Yet the idea of original sin did not take hold, nor did the concept of 
damnation. To the degree the Mundurucu believed in hell, they thought it a 
"particular destination of white people."— 

ROGGE FINALLY CAUGHT up with Johansen and Tolksdorf a day upriver 
from the mission. He found the two men presiding overa large Mundurucu work 
crew and paying them in kind, with material purchased from a downriver trading 
post. After all the derelictions of the two renegades, it was their defiance of the 
company directive to pay wages that put an end to their adventures. Ford was 
adamant on this point. Indeed, when he discussed the benefits his rubber 
plantation would bring to Amazon dwellers, he usually did so in terms ofwages. 
"What the people of the interior of Brazil need," Ford declared, just at the 
moment Captain Oxholmwas bungling the unloading of the Ormoc and Fai~ge in 
Santarem, "is to have their economic life stabilized by fair returns for their labor 
paid in cash."— 

Among the Mundurucu, however, money as a standard of value was 
unknown. Gift giving was the defining feature of their culture and economy; the 
exchange of food, knives, guns, and cooking utensils created a sense of 
identity and bound individuals, households, and settlements together in a 
diffuse network of reciprocity. By the time of Rogge's arrival, the Mundurucu 
systemof generalized sharing was being increasingly replaced by barter 
relations whereby individuals negotiated their exchange item for item- Still, 
throughout the 1920s and 1930s, each transaction remained highly personalized, 
unlike the kind of cold, faceless exchanges associated with cash economies * 

Rogge himself was well aware of Munduaicu custom in that regard. An 
observant Catholic, he had attended Christmas Eve mass at the mission and was 
particularly fascinated by the nuns' handing out presents after the service 
ended. Over the years, the Catholic outpost had accumulated a large collection 



of dolls of "all shapes and sizes," which had been donated by "every country 
on the globe." And each Christmas the nuns would gather up the dolls 
distributed the previous year, dress them in newly sewn clothes, and hand them 
out to the next generation of girls. Rogge understood that the nuns were trying 
to imbue gift giving with a specific religious meaning to celebrate the birth of 
Christ (as well as to teach young children the virtue of wearing clothes). But 
when he was confronted with the wayward agents, Rogge's ethnographic 
sensibility failed him He accused Johansen and Tolksdorf of theft, of paying 
their indigenous laborers with cheap goods and pocketing the money. The two 
tried to defend themselves, insisting that the Mundurucu didn't "want money." 
Rogge would not relent, and after reciting the litany of scandalous stories he 
had heard about the men during his travels, he stripped them of their account 
book and discharged them Yet whatever the motives of Johansen and 
Tolksdorf, when Rogge requested that the Mundurucu continue collecting 
rubber seeds, they refused to be paid in cash and instead demanded 
merchandise for the labor. So he negotiated exactly what they wanted in order to 
continue their gathering. 

It was late January when Rogge finally headed back to Fordlandia. Carried 
quickly on waters made swift by the seasonal rains, the lumberjack descended 
in twenty minutes rapids that took three orfour hours to climb. He thought 
about the gifts he had received fromthe Franciscan missionaries, which 
included a photograph of "Indian life," a small wooden toy, and "some Indian 
relics," and pledged to always keep themas a "remembrance of my Christmas 
spent among the Mundurucu Indians in the interior of Brazil." As he 
approached Fordlandia, Rogge felt satisfied that he had accomplished the job 
that he had been "sent into the heart of Brazil to do." Dearborn, perhaps kept in 
the dark about his accommodation to local custom, was too. Henry Ford named 
himplantation manager shortly after his return, following Victor Perini's sudden 
departure owing to health reasons. 

"WE LIVE AS we dream, alone," is just one of the many thoughts that move 
Marlow, the narrator of Heart of 'Darkness , as he journeys upriver in search of 
Kurtz. Rogge, too, found the jungle educative, although decidedly less 
existential. "One of the things I learned on this trip," he recounted a few years 
later as he reflected on his travels in the upper Tapajos, "is that no white man 
can live and be healthy on native diet and no matter how much good food you 
may have with you it is advisable to have a cook along that is known to be 
clean and can prepare food under trying conditions." The lesson could seem 
trivial, except forthe fact that food was indeed a significant source of woe, and 



often conflict, in the jungle. In fact, exactly one year after his pursuit of 
Johansen and Tolksdorf, a fight over food, sparked by a hastily made decision 
by Rogge himself, nearly caused the destruction of Fordlandia. 



-Historian Bryan McCann, who has written widely on Brazilian music and 
popular culture, notes that at this time the upper Tapajos was only tenuously 
linked to southern Brazil and relatively recent migrant communities were 
receptive to new dance and music trends coming in from the Atlantic. The 
animated, African-based swing of the Charleston would have lent itself to the 
kind of informal communal celebration Luxmoore describes at Villa Nova. 
Residents of the village probably had seen one of the many short films or 
cartoons from the mid- 1920s featuring the dance, either in Santaremor in one of 
the moving cinemas set up by itinerant movie men who roamed the backlands 
(figures memorialized in Bye Bye Brasil [1979] and Cinema Aspirina e Urubus 
[2006]). McCann also reports that the Charleston was a dance form that could 
easily be translated into many different cultures; in 1927, Jean Renoir's 
Charleston Parade featured an alien who lands in postapocalypse Paris and 
learns to do the Charleston (Devon Record Office, Exeter, UK, Charles 
Luxmoore, Journal 2, 1928, 521 M-l/SS/9). 

-It would not be until the 1980s, when gold was found on their land, that the 
Mundurucu would completely adopt money as a universal standard of value 
and exchange. 

^There is a temptation to think of this kind of personalized network of gift 
giving as the antithesis of the rationalized industrial wage system the Ford 
Motor Company helped pioneer back in Michigan. Yet "wages" for Ford were 
always more than a simple unit of value. They were a state of mind, the key to 
his success both as a manufacturer and as a social engineer, as enchanted and 
filled with cultural meaning as was Mundurucu gift giving and bartering. "On 
the cost sheet," Ford said, "wages are mere figures; out in the world, wages are 
bread boxes and coal bins, babies' cradles and children's education— family 
comforts and contentment." Nor was he above using gifts to create personal 
bonds of loyalty. He paid Harry Bennett, for instance, only a small yearly salary 
yet showered him with presents, including several yachts, houses, and even an 
island mansion in the Huron River. "Never," he once tutored Bennett, "give 
anything without strings attached to it" (Collier and Horowitz, The Fords, p. 
132; "Life with Henry," Time, October 8, 1951). 



CHAPTER 15 
KILL ALL THE AMERICANS 

IN DECEMBER 1930, WORKERS HAD FINISHED PAINTING THE FORD 
logo on the landmark that distinguishes Fordlandia to this day: its 150-foot 
tower and 150,000-gallon water tank. "When the view is had from the deck of a 
river steamer," wrote Ogden Pierrot, an assistant commercial attache assigned to 
the US embassy in Rio, of his trip to Fordlandia, "the imposing structures of the 
industrial section of the town, with the tremendous water tank and the 
smokestack of the powerhouse, catch the view and create a sensation of real 
wonderment." 

He went on: 

This is not unusual when it is considered that for several days the 
only signs of life that have relieved the monotony ofthe trip have been 
occasional settlements consisting of two or three thatched huts against 
a background of green jungle. A feeling akin to disbelief comes over the 
visitor on suddenly seeing projected before hima picture which may be 
considered a miniature of a modem industrial city. Smokestacks belching 
forth a heavy cloud formed by waste wood used as fuel, a locomotive 
industriously puffing along ahead of flat cars laden with machinery just 
received from the United States, steam cranes performing their endless 
half turns and reverses for the purposes of retrieving heavy cargo from 
the holds of lighters moored alongside the long dock, heavy tractors 
creeping around the sides ofthe hills dragging implements behind them 
for loosening and leveling the earth, others heaving at taut cables 
attached to stumps of tremendous proportions— all combine to increase 
the astonishment caused in the uninitiated visitors to this district, who 
had no conceptions of what had been accomplished in the brief space 
of slightly over two years. 




Industrial sublime: Foitflandia 's powerhouse turbine. 



Much of the piping that would provide indoor plumbing to the town was 
scheduled to be completed the following year. But as Christmas approached, 
workers bolted to the tower one feature that had nothing to do with water.- 

IT TOOKDEARBORN'S purchasing agents some effort to find a factory 
whistle that wouldn't rust from the jungle humidity. Once they did, they shipped 
it to Fordlandia, where it was perched on top of the water tower, above the tall 
trees, giving it a seven-mile range. The whistle was piercing enough not only to 
reach dispersed road gangs and fieldhands but to be heard across the river, 
where even those not affiliated with Fordlandia began to pace their day to its 
regularly scheduled blows. The whistle was supplemented by another icon of 
industrial factory work: pendulum punch time clocks, placed at different 
locations around the plantation, that recorded exactly when each employee 
began and ended his workday .- 

hi Detroit, immigrant workers by the time they got to Ford's factories, even if 
they were peasants and shepherds, had had ample opportunity to adjust to the 
meter of industrial life. The long lines at Ellis Island, the clocks that hung on the 
walls of depots and waiting rooms, the fairly precise schedules of ships and 
trains, and standardized time that chopped the sun's daily arc into zones 
combined to guide their motions and change their inner sense of how the days 



passed. 

But in the Amazon, the transition between agricultural time and industrial 
time was much more precipitous. Prior to showing up at Fordlandia, many of the 
plantation's workers who had lived in the region had set their pace by two 
distinct yet complementary timepieces. The first was the sun, its rise and fall 
marking the beginning and end of the day, its apexsignaling the time to take to 
the shade and sleep. The second was the turn of the seasons: most of the labor 
needed to survive was perfonned during the relatively dry months of June to 
November. Rainless days made rubber tapping possible, while the recession of 
the floods exposed newly enriched soils, ready to plant, and concentrated fish, 
making them easier to catch. But nothing was set in stone. Excessive rain or 
prolonged periods of drought or heat led to adjustments of schedules. Before 
the coining of Ford, Tapajos workers lived time, they didn't measure it — most 
rarely ever heard church bells, much less a factory whistle. It was difficult, 
therefore, as David Riker, who peifonned many jobs for Ford, including labor 
recruiter, said, "to make 365-day machines out of these people."- 

Fordlandia's managers and foremen, in contrast, were mostly engineers, 
precise in their measurement of time and motion. One of the first things the 
Americans did was set their watches and clocks to Detroit time, where 
Fordlandia remains to this day (nearby Santaremruns an hour earlier).- They 
scratched their heads when confronted with workers they routinely described 
as "lazy." Archie Weeks 's daughter remembers her father throwing his straw hat 
on the ground more than once in frustration. With a decided sense of purpose 
that grated against the established rhythms of Tapajos life (David Riker liked to 
say that hurry was an "obscene" word in the valley), proudly affiliated with a 
company renowned for its vanguard interlocking efficiency, Ford's men tended 
to treat Brazilians as instruments. And called them such. Matt Mulrooney gave 
his workers nicknames. "This fellow I had named Telephone. When I wanted to 
send a message or an order down front, I'd just holler, 'Telephone!' and he'd 
show up,' — 

And they used themselves as standards to measure the value of Brazilian 
labor. "Two of our people easily earned some timbers which twelve Brazilians 
did not seem to be able to handle," observed a Dearborn official at the end of 
1930. What a man could do in a Dearborn day "would take one of them guys 
three days to do it down there."- 

These American managers and foremen did, after all work for a man whose 
obsession with time long predated his drive to root out "lost motion" and 



"slack" in the workday by dividing the labor needed to build the Model T into 
ever smaller tasks: 7,882 to be exact, according to Ford's own calculations. As a 
boy, Ford regularly tookapart and reassembled watches and clocks. "Every 
clock in the Ford home," a neighbor once recalled, "shuddered when it saw him 
coining." He even invented a two-faced watch, one to keep "sun time" and the 
other Chicago time— that is, central standard time. Thirteen when his mother 
died giving birth to her ninth child, Henry later described his home after her 
passing as "a watch without a mains p ring. "- 

He also knew that attempts to change the measure of time could lead to 
resistance- — again, well before he met labor opposition to his assembly line 
speedup. He was twenty-two when, in 1885, most of Detroit refused to obey a 
municipal ordinance to promote the "unification of time," as the campaign to get 
the United States to accept the Greenwich meridian as the universal standard 
was called. "Considerable confusion" prevailed, according to the Chicago 
Daily Tribune, as Detroit "showed her usual conservatism in refusing to adopt 
Standard Time." It took more than two decades to get the city to fully "abandon 
solar time" and set its clocks back twenty-eight minutes and fifty-one seconds 
to harmonize with Chicago and the rest of the Midwest {the city would switch 
to eastern standard time in 1915, both to have more sunlight hours and to 
synchronize the city's factories with New York banks).- 

In Fordlandia, industrial regimentation entailed a host of other initiatives 
besides whistles and punch card clocks. The paying of set bimonthly wages, 
based on those punched cards, was the most obvious. So was a conception of 
the workday that made as little concession as possible to the weather, keeping 
workers "on the clock" when rain poured down in sheets and the temperature 
soared past 105 degrees. The effort to rationalize life reached into the smallest 
details of a worker's day. As in Dearborn, plantation employees were required to 
wear a metal Ford badge, embossed with their ID number and an industrial 
panorama that included a factory complex, an airplane, two ships (the Ormoc 
and Fargel), and a water tower. The fieldhands who cleared the jungle and 
tended to the young rubber trees often took off their shirts in the heat, and so 
they pinned their badges to their belt buckles. The cost of a lost badge was 
deducted from wages. 



vaccinate against smallpox, yellow fever, typhoid, and diphtheria. When 
workers went to punch out at the end of the day, they were met at the clocks by 
members of the medical team, who gave them their daily quinine pill. They were 
often reluctant to take it, though, as the high dosage prescribed by Ford's 
doctors caused nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, skin rashes, and nightmares. 
Hiding the pills under their tongues, the workers, once out of sight, would 
compete to see who could spit theirs the farthest. Plantation doctors also 
insisted that all workers take the antiparasitical chenopodium, without, as one 
employee complained, examining them to see if the medicine was required. "The 
Americans suppose that we are all full of worms," he said.- 

AT DAWN, WHEN the whistle gave its first blast summoning workers to 
their stations, Fordlandia was often still shrouded in mist. Its managers would 
soon learn that the fog that wafted off the Tapajos early in the morning 
accelerated the spread of the rubber-destroying fungi. Yet in those early days, 
before the blight hit, they thought it beautiful, especially when the mist mingled 
with light's first rays through standing trees. The undulating hills and hollows 
of the planting area no longer looked like a wasteland, as over two thousand 
acres of six-feet-tall nibber trees, lined up in neat rows, had begun to sport 
young crowns of leaves. The estate was especially enchanting around the 
American compound. Though it was set backfromthe dock about a mile and a 
half, the row of houses nestled on a rise above a bend in the Tapajos, gave its 
residents a panoramic sunset view of the broad river. Behind the houses, as a 
buffer to the rest of the plantation, Archie Weeks had left a stand of forest, 
creating what residents described as a ''nature park." With most ofthe jungle's 
dangers removed, it was easier to contemplate its pleasures. Paths raked clean 
ofthe rank, rotting leaves that normally cover the forest floor meandered 
through ferns, tropical palms, false cedars, and kapoks garlanded with climbers, 
bromeliads, bignonias, and other tropical flowers; large morpho butterflies 
flitted over the blossoms, their wings shining blue and black. And that 
December, Dearborn had sent down about a dozen live pines, to be used as 
Christmas trees in the American houses, so its homesick American staff could 
have a pro per American holiday. 

Slowly, before the second whistle signaled the official start ofthe day, the 
morning sounds ofthe forest would give way to the noise of waking families, 
women grinding manioc, and the chatter, first subdued and then playful, of 
assembling men. Most came from the bunkhouses or the plantation settlement. 
But a contingent commuted from the other side ofthe river, their canoe paddles 
splashing the water, oil lamps piercing the thick fog, helping them navigate, as 



did the occasional soft whistle if one drifted off course. Others walked fromPau 
d'Agua or one of the other small settlements on the plantation's edge that had 
so far withstood the company's attempts to buy them out or shut them down, 
continuing to offer a degree of nighttime autonomy to Fordlandia's workers. 
Time cards were punched, ignitions turned, instructions given, and the workday 
commenced. 

By the end of 1930, then, it seemed as if Fordlandia had made it through its 
rough start and had settled into a workable routine. Most of the physical plant 
was built, and crews were pushing into the jungle, clearing more land, planting 
more rubber, and building more roads. John Rogge, named acting manager 
following his return fromthe upper Tapajos and Victor Perini's sudden 
departure, had arranged for a steady supply of seeds to be sent down fromthe 
Mundurucu reservation. Rogge had also sent David Riker earlier in the year to 
the upper Amazon, to Acre in far western Brazil, to secure more seeds, some of 
which had arrived and had been planted. Sanitation squads still policed the 
plantation's thatched settlement where workers with families lived, inspecting 
latrines and kitchens and making sure laundry was hung properly, waste was 
disposed of in a hygienic manner, and corrals were kept dry, well drained, and 
free of feces. But managers had their hands full getting the plantation and 
sawmill running, so they had mostly given up insisting that all single employees 
live on the estate proper, though they did try to force unmarried workers to eat 
lunch and dinner in the company 's newly built dining hall. Nor did the 
administration in those early years provide much in the way of entertainment. 
Formost employees, the workday ended at three. Apart from dinner there 
wasn't much else for single men to do but to drift to the cafes, bars, and 
brothels that surrounded the plantation, where they could eat and drink what 
they wanted and pay forsexifthey liked. On Sundays, small-scale traders and 
merchants fromnearby communities arrived on canoes, steamboats, and 
graceful sailboats, still widely used at the time, setting up a bustling market on 
the riverbank, selling fruit, vegetables, meat, notions, clothes, and books. 

The strikes, knife fights, and riots that marked Fordlandia's first two years 
had subsided, and for all of 1930 there were no major incidents. Rogge decided 
that the detachment of amied soldiers that had been stationed at the camp since 
the 1928 riot was no longer needed. Fordlandia's end-of-the-year report, 
compiled in early December 1930, praised if not the work ethic then the 
"docility" of Brazilian workers, who do "not resent being either shown or 
supervised by men of other nationalities." 

Still, Rogge kept a tug and a smaller launch at the ready — not at the main 



dock but up the river, accessible by a path from the American village. 

THE TROUBLE STARTED in the new eating halL a cavernous concrete 
warehouselike structure inaugurated just a few weeks earlier. To enforce the 
regulation that single workers had to take their meals on the plantation — both to 
discourage the patronage of bars and bordellos and to encourage a healthy diet 
— Rogge, back from a four-month vacation, decided after consulting with 
Dearborn that the cost of food would be automatically deducted from bimonthly 
paychecks. 

The new system went into effect in the middle of December. Common 
laborers sat at one end of the hall, skilled craftsmen and foremen at the other; 
both groups were served by waiters. Workers grumbled about being fed a diet 
set by Henry Ford, consisting of oatmeal and canned peaches imported from 
Michigan for breakfast and unpolished rice and whole wheat bread for dinner. 
And they didn't like the automatic pay deductions, which meant they couldn't 
spend their money where they wanted. It also meant they had to forma line 
outside the dining hall door so that office clerks could take attendance, jotting 
badge numbers in their roll book. But the arrangement seemed to be working. 

Then on December 20, Chester Coleman arrived in the camp to oversee the 

kitchens. Before having spent even a day at Fordlandia, he suggested that the 

plantation do away with waiter service. Fresh fromhis job as foreman at River 

Rouge, with its assembly lines and conveyor belts, Coleman proposed having 

all the men line up for their food "cafeteria-style." Rogge agreed, and the 

change went into effect on the twenty-second. Rogge also charged the 

unpopular Kaj Ostenfeld, who worked in the payroll office, with the job of 

deducting the cost of meals from workers' salaries and with making sure that 

the new plan went smoothly. Dearborn believed Ostenfeld a man of 

"unquestioned honesty," though they did think he could use some refinement 

and suggested that at some point he be brought to Detroit for "further 

development." Workers had long been unhappy with his condescending, 
q 

provocative manner. 2 - 

Dining the first hour or so, eight hundred men made it in and out without a 
problem Ostenfeld, though, heard some of the skilled mechanics and foremen 
complain. "When they came from work," he said, they expected to "to sit down 
at the table and be served by the waiters" — -and not be forced to wait on line 
and eat with the common laborers. As the line began to bunch up, the 
complaints grew sharper. "We are not dogs," someone protested, "that are 
going to be ordered by the company to eat in this way." The sweltering heat 
didn't help matters. The old mess hall had been made of thatch, with half-open 



walls and a tall, airy A-frame roof that while rustic looking was well ventilated. 
The new hall was concrete, with a squat roof made of asbestos, tar, and 
galvanized metal that trapped heat, turning the building into an oven.— 

Cooks had trouble keeping the food coming and the clerks took too much 
time recording the badge numbers. Outside, workers pushed against the 
entrance trying to get in. Inside, those waiting for food crowded around the 
harried servers, who couldn't ladle the rice and fish onto plates fast enough. It 
was then that Manuel Caetano de Jesus, a thirty-five-year-old brick mason from 
the coastal state of Rio Grande do Norte, forced his way into the hall and 
confronted Ostenfeld. There was already animosity between the two men from 
past encounters, and as their words grew heated, workers in dirty shirts and 
ratty straw hats and smelling of a day's hard work gathered round. Ostenfeld 
knew some Portuguese fromhis previous work at Rio's Ford dealership. But that 
didn't mean he frilly understood de Jesus, who most likely spoke fast and with a 
thick working-class north Brazilian accent. Often Ford men had just enough 
Portuguese to get by, which could be a dangerous thing, creating situations 
where both parties might easily mistake obtuseness for hostility. In any case, 
Ostenfeld grasped what it meant when de Jesus tookoffhis badge and handed 
it to him 

Ostenfeld laughed. As de Jesus later testified, "it was as if he was making 
fun," which "infuriated" those who were standing close by, following the 
argument. For his part, Ostenfeld claimed that de Jesus turned to the crowd and 
said: "I have done everything for you, now you can do the rest."— 

The response was furious, one observer recounted, like "putting a match to 
gasoline." The "horrible noise" of the breaking pots, glass, plates, sinks, tables, 
and chairs served as a clarion, calling more workers to descend on the mess hall 
armed with knives, rocks, pipes, hammers, machetes, and clubs. Ostenfeld, 
along with Coleman, who had watched the whole scene unfold not knowing a 
word of Portuguese, jumped in a truck to escape. As they sped away to tell 
Rogge what was happening, they heard someone yell: "Let's break everything, 
let's get hold of Ostenfeld." 

With Ostenfeld in flight, the crowd went on a rampage. Having demolished 
the dining hall, the rioters destroyed "everything breakable within reach of their 
course, which took them to the office building, power house, sawmill, garage, 
radio station, and receiving building." They cut the lights to the rest of the 
plantation, smashed windows, dumped a truckload of meat into the river, and 
broke pressure gauges. A group of men tried to pull out the pilings holding up 



the pier, while others set fire to the machine shop, burned company records, and 
looted the commissary. The rioters then set their sights on the things most 
closely associated with Ford, destroying every truck, tractor, and car on the 
plantation. Windshields and lights were shattered, gas tanks punctured, and 
tires slashed. A number of trucks were pushed into ditches, and at least one 
was rolled down the riverbank into the Tapajos . Then they turned to the time 
clocks, smashing them to bits. 

One group broke away and headed to Pau d'Agua to get liquor, while 
another ran to rouse other protesters. Unaware of what was going on, Archie 
Weeks nearly drove a "touring car" straight into a group of men anned with 
clubs and knives. He spun the steering wheelhard and sped away, but not fast 
enough to avoid a rain of rocks that shattered his back window. Gaining some 
distance, Weeks ditched the car and made his way back on foot to where the 
Americans lived. 

Learning of the uprising, Rogge, who himself was getting ready to eat 
dinner at his home in the American compound, dispatched a trusted Brazilian to 
cable Belem for reinforcements before the mob got to the radio. He then ordered 
Curtis Pringle, who by this point was in charge of Fordlandia's rubber planting, 
to evacuate most of the Americans from the estate, especially the women, who 
were "in a very nervous condition." Some left on the launch Rogge kept at the 
ready. Others availed themselves of "all means of transportation such as 
canoes, motor boats, horse back, etc." 

Rogge, with his remaining staff, headed out to meet a group of about forty 
workers who were advancing on the American houses. 




Smashed time clock. 

"What are your grievances?" he asked them 

"We are mechanics, masons, and carpenters, not table waiters," they replied. 



Rogge said he was sympathetic and promised to address their concerns, but 
only if they would go and calm their fellow workers. But the men sent to find 
liquor had returned, and the riot was "in full swing." When Rogge heard a 
group of drunken workers chanting "Brazil for Brazilians . Kill all the Americans ," 
he decided that it was time to leave. He ordered his men to make for the tugboat, 
but David Rikei; just backfromAcre, and Archie Weeks found themselves cut 
off from the evacuation route. Fleeing into the jungle, they hid out fortwo days 
while the riot raged on.— 

Rogge and the rest of his staff made it on the boat safely, passing the night 
anchored in the middle of the Tapajos. As the river's waves lapped against the 
hulk the "tremendous noise" that signaled the destruction of Fordlandia 
continued into the morning. 



FORDLANDIA'S UPRISING WAS an aftershock of the revolution that had 
rocked Brazil a few months earlier, the one that brought Getulio Vargas to power. 
\argas's ascension was relatively bloodless, yet the frisson generated by his 
insurrection created a sense that the old rules no longer held and the old 
hierarchies no longer had to be respected. In the weeks before the December 
riot a number of Fordlandia's staff made mention of the charged atmosphere 
that enveloped the plantation — which is, perhaps, why Rogge kept a tug 
waiting. "A few radicals among the skilled workers," wrote Fordlandia's Belem 
agent, James Kennedy, to Dearborn, "misinterpreted the successful revolution 
all over Brazil which occurred in October and these radicals began agitating 
against anything pertaining to foreigners." Workers even hoisted red flags over 
their bunkhouses, which the Americans decided to let fly. But the ascension of 
\argas also undoubtedly saved Fordlandia, for the man he named to replace 
Para's governor, Eurico de Freitas \alle, who had led the campaign to revise 
Ford's concession, immediately agreed to provide whatever aid was needed to 
retake the plantation. 

The riot began on Monday, and that night Kennedy wired Juan Trippe, the 
legendary founder of Pan American Airways, at his office in New York to tell him 
that Fordlandia had fallen to "mob rule." Trippe had recently established a trunk 
line between Belemand Manaus, with a mail and refueling stop in Santarem, and 
Kennedy asked if one of his planes could fly him and a few soldiers to the 
plantation. If they didn't get there soon, Kennedy warned, the "place will be a 
total wreck in 24 hours ." Trippe immediately agreed. 

The next morning, Tuesday, having secured a military detachment from the 
local army base, Kennedy, a Brazilian lieutenant named Ismaelino Castro, and 
three armed soldiers boarded a Pan Am twin-engine Sikorsky hydroplane, taking 
off fromBelem's riverfront. It tookabout seven hours forthe plane to reach the 
area, and when it landed in the early afternoon outside the town of Aveiros, just 
downriver from Fordlandia, Kennedy and Castro were greeted by Rogge and a 
few other Americans (the rest of the staff had fled to Santarem). Kennedy and 
the lieutenant decided to spend the night in Aveiros and travel to Fordlandia the 
following day. The next morning, they received word that the plantation had 
awaked quiet. But later that day, "irate" residents ofPau d'Agua and other 
villages that ringed Fordlandia's periphery marched on the estate's office with 
guns and machetes. Angry at the company's efforts to evict them, they were 
perhaps urged on by Francisco Franco, who after Oxholm's departure had 
developed an increasingly antagonistic relationship with Fordlandia, 
aggravated by Kennedy's heavy-handed efforts to force him to sell his property 



ill Pau d'Agua. 

Kennedy and Castro had the pilot of the Sikorsky swoop down and buzz the 
protesters, dispersing the threat. The plane then landed in the Tapajos and 
pulled up along Fordlandia's dock. Calmseemed to be restored, though Castro 
and his men went ashore on their own, telling Kennedy to wait behind.— 

A delegation appointed by the workers received the lieutenant with a list of 
grievances they wanted to be presented to the company. High on the list was 
the demand that Ostenfeld be fired. The rest of the complaints had to do mostly 
with the right of free movement. Workers demanded to eat where, and what, 
they chose. They were tired of being fed whole wheat bread and unpolished 
rice "for health reasons," as per Henry Ford's instructions. They wanted to be 
able to frequent the cafes and restaurants that had sprung up around the work 
camp and be allowed to board steamboats, presumably to buy liquor, without 
first having to obtain permission. Single men complained about being jammed 
fifty to a bunkhouse.— 

hi the weeks after the riot, regional newspapers ran stories featuring other 
criticisms of the plantation's management. Manuel Caetano de Jesus, the mason 
fingered as the riot's instigator, told the Estado do Para that the workers hated 
the time clocks, not just because they were unaccustomed to such 
regimentation but because the clocks were unpractically placed too far from their 
work stations, making it difficult to punch in as required to do "under penalty of 
losing wages." Mario Pinheiro do Nascimento complained not just about being 
charged for food, which was not part of the deal when he contracted for work, 
but about the "very poor quality" of the food itself. The kitchen staff, he said, 
often served "rotten" fish "not fit for a dog kept hungry for three days."— 

Others groused that come payday, the company, dependent on shipments of 
cash fromBelem, was frequently short. So it handed out "cards" as markers. But 
if someone tried to leave, the plantation made it difficult to "exchange those 
cards for money." The hospital and medical staff had done much to improve the 
health conditions of the residents in the center of Fordlandia. Yet the death rate 
remained high from''beri-beri and other unknown fevers" forthose who worked 
on the estate's outskirts building roads, gathering palm for thatch and timber, or 
clearing forest to plant more rubber. Pit vipers — large, thick-bodied snakes with 
a triangle-shaped head and rounded snout — continued to strike at the hands of 
workers as they chopped at the jungle's undergrowth - Others made mention of 
cramped living conditions, of being made to work in the rain, or of mandatory 
trips to the hospital without reason or explanation.— 



FORD VISCERALLY OPPOSED the notion of workers representing 
themselves collectively; he once called unions the "worst thing that ever struck 
the earth." And as unions gained in popularity and strength, he seamlessly 
added labor leaders to his gallery of enemies. At the time of the 1930 riot, Ford 
could claima series ofvictories against organizing campaigns led by the militant 
Industrial Workers of the World and the AFL-affiliated Carriage, Wagon, and 
Automobile Workers Union, and he would settle for nothing less in the Amazon. 
The men he sent down to Brazil, along with their supervisors back in Dearborn, 
were well versed in their boss's thinking when it came to labor unrest, and they 
took it as an article of faith that, as Sorensen would repeatedly remind 
Fordlandia 's management, the company would not "let any strikers dictate how 
our business must be ain." 

So Kennedy told Lieutenant Castro flat out that he would not meet the 
protesters ' demands "under any circumstances ." Instead, he decided to use the 
opportunity presented by the riot to, as the sawyer Matt Mulrooney put it, 
"clean house." He wired Jose Antunes, owner of the namesake riverboat 
Zeantunes — Ze being short for Jose — who was in Belem waiting to bring a 
shipment of goods recently arrived from New York, along with two hundred 
newly contracted employees, to Fordlandia. Kennedy told him to unload the 
cargo, dismiss the workers, and go to the Bank of London and withdraw an 
emergency shipment of cash. 

As Kennedy waited for the money, a boat carrying thirty -five soldiers "fully 
anned and equipped with machine guns" docked at Fordlandia on Christmas 
Eve. The troops inspected the plantation, confiscating knives, guns, and any 
other implement that could be used as a weapon. Kennedy then ordered the 
soldiers to evict the residents of Pair d'Agua and the other shantytowns that 
surrounded Fordlandia and close down the bars, restaurants, and brothels that 
had long bedeviled the plantation. "Entirely clean themout," he told the 
soldiers. After the families were forced out and their - houses torn down, 
Kennedy sent in the sanitation squad to "clean it up," to bum the latrines and 
pour quicklime into the pits. Shortly thereafter, with the backing of Xargas's 
government, he finally forced Francisco Franco to sell him the land where Pau 
d'Agua had stood for, as Eimar Franco puts it, "the price of a banana."— 

The Zeantunes arrived on New Year's Day with the requested cash. Flanked 
by armed Brazilian soldier's, Kennedy gathered the plantation's workers together 
and paid them "for all time up to and including December 22." He then fired the 
entire labor force save a skeleton crew of a few hundred men.— 



With Fordlandia in ruins and damages estimated to run over twenty-five 
thousand dollars, he waited to hear fromDearborn what to do next. 



-Brazil resisted for over a decade an international agreement that would set 
the Greenwich meridian as the base for reckoning international zones, holding 
out for the use of its own coordinates to standardize time. It dropped its 
opposition in 1913 and accepted Greenwich time, though most interior regions, 
especially those without train lines such as the Amazon, continued to keep 
"God's time." 

-Also known as a bushmaster, this snake is among the most lethal in the 
world. Its Latin name, Lachesis muta muta, derives fromLachesis, one of the 
Fates in Greek mythology who decides individual destiny, and can be translated 
as "bringing silent death in the night," since, though it vibrates its tail prior to 
striking, it has no rattle. 



PART 111 

RUBBER ROUGE 



CHAPTER 16 
AMERICAN PASTORAL 

IT TOOK TIME FOR THE GREAT DEPRESSION TO REACH THE Tapajos , 
where Henry Ford's massive infusion of money and resources into the cash- 
poor economy offset the effects of plummeting commodity prices, capital flight, 
high interest rates, and declining exports that had shocked Brazil — and the rest 
of Latin America — immediately after the stock market collapse of October 1929. 
But back in Detroit, the impact was immediate. The crash hit the city hard, 
destroying more than two-thirds of its economy. In the years prior to the 
Depression, city and suburban factories had produced 5,294,000 cars worth $3.7 
billion; four years later, the number had fallen to less than two million valued at 
$1.1 billion. Over 50 percent of the city's workforce was laid off. Hundreds of 
thousands of its residents either went on relief or simply packed up and left. 
Hundreds of thousands became homeless, many finding a bed in an abandoned 
factory the city had converted into a shelter. The suicide rate skyrocketed; four 
thousand boys and girls stood on breadlines for their daily meals; and 18 
percent of schoolchildren suffered fromsevere undernourishment. The welfare 
department was reporting 7,500 monthly evictions. People were found dead on 
the street, poisoned by putrid food they had scavenged out of garbage cans. At 
night, men looted grocery stores while children prowled the streets, breaking 
shop windows and stealing goods. Some families dug holes in the ground for 
shelter, protected by nothing other than some laid-over brush.- 

Ford at first restrained himself from using the crash to scold Wall Street and 
lash out at the money interests. He instead responded in a way many deemed 
responsible, preaching his gospel of consumer spending as away out of the 
downturn. To back it up, he pledged that not only would he continue 
production at the Rouge full bore but he would raise his daily minimum wage 
from $6 to $7 a day. Ford seemed well positioned to lead the recovery: he 
himself had little invested in stocks, so his personal fortune was untouched, 
and his company, unlike General Motors, whose share price plummeted, wasn't 
publicly traded. Yet demand for the new Model A gradually slowed, and 
inventories backed up. Ford lowered its price, taking the difference out of 
dealers' commissions. But by the end of 1930, there was no margin left for any 
more reductions. The company quietly began to cut production and to buy 
more and more parts fromoutside low-wage suppliers — thus beginning the 
erosion of the fearsome self-sufficiency of the Ford Motor Company. By early 
1931, the company had slashed the number of weekly hours of most workers, 



rendering meaningless Ford's vaunted Seven Dollar Day. Later that year, the 
company officially reduced that as well. And then in August the assembly line 
ground to a halt — Ford had more cars than customers to buy them Just four 
years after its introduction in late 1927, the ModelA, which Ford had hoped 
would have as long a run as the T, was history .- 

As Ford approached his seventh decade, the destruction unleashed by the 
Depression and the fact that his company had been vulnerable to its effects 
accelerated his cultural conservatism His worldview grew gnarled and knotted 
with fear and mistrust, and his mind, as the former head of his Sociological 
Department once put it, continued on its path to isolation. Forced to recant his 
anti-Semitism a few years earlier, he never again publicly criticized Jews. But the 
kind of optimism Ford had expressed early in the Depression took on a 
hectoring, recriminating tone. He began to link the nation's economic problems 
to his critique of the corrosive nature of America's modem consumer society. 
With Detroit children digging through garbage cans for food less than ten miles 
fromhis Fair Lane estate, Ford said he welcomed the recession's cleansing 
destruction, believing it would wash the excesses of the 1920s from the land. He 
pronounced the Depression a "wholesome thing in general," the ''best times we 
have ever had." "It's a good thing the recovery is prolonged," Ford said, 
"otherwise the people wouldn't profit from the illness." His spokesman, William 
Cameron, who had previously penned many of the Independent's anti-Semitic 
tracts, said on the Ford Sunday Evening Hour, a weekly radio show produced 
in a Ford studio, that the Depression was sent by "good Providence" to force 
atonement for "our former false prosperity." "The bad times were back in 1929 
and before," Ford told a reporter. "That was the real panic— that so-called 
prosperous period. Business, at bottom, never was so bad as it was in what we 
called boom times ."- 

This last comment appeared in a long interview in the New York Times 
whose headline pronounced that Ford "Sees the Dawn of a Bright Future." 
Perhaps the interview, published in February 1933, was timed to preempt the 
momentum building around the cousin of his departed nemesis, Theodore 
Roosevelt. Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office a month after the interview, 
and Ford probably found much to like in his inspirational inaugural address. 
FDR condemned the stubborn incompetence of Wall Street's "unscrupulous 
money changers" and admitted that there was an "overbalance of population in 
our industrial centers." And he called for the "restoration" of "ancient truths" 
and "social values more noble than mere monetary profits." Yet early in his 



speech, the new president said that only a "foolish optimist can deny the dark 
realities of the moment," which the thin-skinned Ford must have taken as a 
reprimand. 

It increasingly seemed to many that Ford's social criticismwas a formof 
self-rebuke. His reformer image was wearing thin, as he and his company 
became implicated in many of the modem vices he condemned. Throughout the 
1930s, Ford stepped up his jeremiads against crowded, dirty, crime-ridden cities. 
Yet even before the aiin of the Great Depression, Ford had contributed to the 
slow decline ofDetroit's downtown by transferring much ofhis production and 
administration to Dearborn, paving the way for Chrysler and General Motors to 
likewise abandon the center of the city. Ford lobbied for Prohibition, saying that 
Detroit's distilleries could be converted to make biofriels. Yet the criminalization 
of alcohol served only to deliver Detroit to gangsterism Ford railed against 
finance capitalism even though his company was heavily invested in Detroit's 
Guardian Group, a banking house that, when it went bankrupt in 1933, helped 
spark a nationwide bank panic. Ford aggravated the crisis by first offering to 
bail out Detroit banks and then, perhaps acting on advice from Harry Bennett, 
withdrawing the offer. The collapse of the Guardian Group led to a wave of 
foreclosures of businesses and homes that would devastate the Motor City's 
downtown .- 

Ford's social interventions were similarly corrosive. Ford complained about 
the ease with which technology could be used to manipulate mass society. But 
through the early 1930s, he lunched regularly with the fascist Catholic "radio 
priest" Charles Coughlin, who roused his listeners to fits of anti-Semitic rage 
and defended German Nazi violence against Jews during Kristallnacht. 
Evidence even suggests Ford funded the priest's campaign. Ford imagined 
himself a friend of African Americans, hiring them in large numbers — more than 
his competitors were — and paying them the same as he did whites. Yet most of 
his African American employees were confined to the Rouge's worst work, in its 
foundry, rolling mill, or paint shop, with little opportunity for advancement, 
while his gradual pullout fromDetroit contributed to that city's deepening 
poverty and intensifying white vigilantism And even as he expanded in 
Dearborn, he refused to challenge that county's systemof segregation, which 
was considered the worst north of the Mason-Dixon line and lasted into the 
1970s. He hired few African Americans outside the Rouge and practically none 
in his village industry program, designed to give workers a fuller, more balanced 
life, hi his operations in Iron Mountain in the Upper Peninsula, a "concilium" of 
the KKK organized by Ford mill workers, who used Ford wood and kerosene to 



build and bum their inaugural cross, drove African American migrants looking 
for jobs out of town. The plant's manager issued a statement: "Mr. Ford wasn't 
einployin' no colored people. "- 

Ford continued to preach pacifism Yet not only had he already once turned 
his plants over to wartime production, his system of mass production helped 
make modem mechanized warfare possible- Ford believed in community, but 
the highway system that developed in tandem with his car set small-town 
America on the path to destruction (to save his own childhood farm, he had to 
pry it from its foundations and move it wholesale). Ford celebrated self-reliance, 
though he did more than anyone to turn man into a cog in a machine. And of 
course he valued individualism even as he denied individuals the right to join a 
union if they wanted, responding to demands for industrial democracy by 
unleashing Harry Bennett, who throughout the 1930s would leverage his boss 's 
paranoia and increasing divorce fromreality to tighten his grip on the company. 
Bennett was well known in Detroit and its environs, where he maintained close 
connections with both law enforcement and the criminal underworld and where 
the local press treated him affectionately, like a colorful character out of a 
Damon Runyon story. But the stepped-up brutality committed by Bennett and 
his men during the Great Depression began to prompt other comparisons 
— namely to the fascist shock troops then on the march in Germany and Italy. 

On Monday, March 7, 1932, Bennett's "service men" opened fire on a march 
of laid-off Ford workers and other protesters who arrived at the River Rouge to 
demand jobs and hunger relief. When the smoke cleared, five protesters were 
dead, another nineteen seriously injured, and the world outside the Rouge's 
gates got a close look, thanks to reporters and photographers on the scene, of 
what life was like for those who worked for the "despot of Dearborn," as the 
writer Edmund Wilson described Ford in Scribner s Magazine. Both Ford and 
Bennett escaped legal responsibility for the deaths, yet, as historian David 
Halberstamnotes, the worldwide press coverage ofthe "Dearborn Massacre" 
was the beginning ofthe end for Ford's reputation as a benevolent reformer.- 

Since his peace ship, Ford's philosophizing had been the subject of a good 
deal of ridicule and his industrial method the focus of serious criticism, but 
starting in 1932 negative portrayals began to outweigh the positive. Aldous 
Huxley's Brave New World, with its forecast of a future made perverse by 
Fordism, was published just a month before the carnage; Jonathan Leonard's 
The Tragedy of Henry Ford , which came out a few weeks after, was greeted with 
a New York Times review headlined "Ford, the Small-Town Man Who Killed 



Small-Town Life." In 1937, Upton Sinclair's The Flivver King: A Story of Ford- 
America, asked: "What is Henry Ford? What have the years done to him? What 
has his billion dollars made of him?" Sinclair charged Ford with providing 
financial support to Hitler in Germany, and his accusation gained credibility a 
year later when the Nazi consul to Detroit bestowed the Grand Cross of the 
German Eagle on Ford on his seventy-fifth birthday. After the massacre, there 
also appeared a number of exposes of "the little man in Henry Ford's basement" 
— that is, of Harry Bennett, "general of the gangster army, and boon companion 
of the old man sitting in his estate on the hill, well within hearing of the 
shooting. "- 

Early 1932, then, with breadlines wrapping around comers, banks failing, 
factories closing, and protesters being shot in the street, would hardly seemlike 
a promising moment for Diego Rivera to begin work on a celebration of the 
innovative "spirit of Detroit." 

DIEGO RIVERA WAS relatively well known in the United States as the 
leading light of Mexico's muralist revival, an art movement that captured the 
energy of the 1910 Mexican Revolution. A leftist, Rivera was expelled from 
Mexico's Communist Party in 1929 after having been expelled from the Soviet 
Union the year before for his critical stance against Stalin. He came to the 
United States in 1930 to paint a series of frescoes for the San Francisco Stock 
Exchange and the California School of Fine Arts and to stage a retrospective of 
his work at New York's Museum of Modem Art. It was around this time that the 
Detroit Institute of Aits contacted him and asked him to "help beautify" the 
walls of its garden courtyard. 

Rivera anived in the city in April, a month after Bennett's massacre, with a 
free hand to take as the subject of his mural anything he wanted. The letter 
commissioning him merely suggested as a theme "something out of the history 
of Detroit, or some motif suggesting the development of the town." EdselFord, 
who sat on the DIA's board, offered to help the artist gain admittance to study 
any city business or factory that was still running. Rivera, though, knew exactly 
what he wanted to see and paint: the River Rouge.- 

Despite the slowdown, the Rouge was still the grandest achievement of 
industrial capitalismto date. Rows of machines and belts at the Rouge were 
placed even closer together than they were in the old Highland Park factory, 
which meant that the Dearborn compound was larger than it seemed: had its 
machinery been spaced as it was at Dodge or Chrysler, or Highland Park, the 
physical plant would have had to be almost double in dimension. The genius of 



the Rouge, though, was not its size but its synchronized flow, with raw materials 
and finished parts moved fromstation to station by lorries, cranes, freight bins, 
assembly lines, and crisscrossed conveyor belts. The interchangeability of 
parts had become an obsession for the Ford Motor Company, and in the Rouge, 
as one employee put it, "every machine tool and fixture was fitted for the 
production of a single product whose every part had been standardized to the 
minutest detail." This is why it was so enomiously expensive to switch over 
from the Model T to the A a few years earlier. Ford had to scrap or refurbish 
more than three-quarters of the plant's 45,000 specialized tools (valued at $45 
million) and spend millions more buying 4,500 new ones. And the fact that Ford 
insisted on placing the Rouge's machines and workstations as close together as 
possible added to time and cost overruns because, as one worker put it, "the 
machines were in so tight that sometimes if we had to move a machine, we'd 
have to move four or five different machines to get that one out."- 

Rivera, who never learned to drive, spent a month inside the River Rouge, 
visiting every one of its plants and sketching its operations. In his 
autobiography, Rivera tells of losing himself for whole days and nights in the 
Rouge's more than ninety buildings, observing the movement of its seventy 
thousand workers, "making literally thousands of sketches of toweling blast 
furnaces, serpentine conveyor belts, impressive scientific laboratories, busy 
assent) ling rooms, also ofprecision instruments, some ofthemmassive yet 
delicate, and of the men who worked them all." What others thought a 
deafening roar — like the British journalist Julian Street, who likened the sound 
of Rouge's predecessor Highland Park factory to Niagara Falls — Rivera heard 
as a "new music," a "wonderful symphony." His time in the labyrinth awakened 
his childhood "passion for mechanical toys," which had matured into an 
appreciation of the machine, "for its meaning to man — his self-mlfillment and 
liberation from drudgery and poverty." It was a sentiment Ford — who titled a 
chapter in one of his coauthored books "Machinery, the New Messiah" 
— surely would have recognized, for he similarly and repeatedly insisted that 
mechanization meant emancipation from material drudgery, more time to enjoy 
the finer things of life. "For most purposes a man with a machine is better than a 
man without a machine," he said. "Unless we better understand the mechanical 
portion of life, we cannot have the time to enjoy the trees, and the birds, and the 
flowers, and the green fields."— 

After one month in the Rouge, Rivera spent another eight painting his 
masterwork. He saw his commission, financed mostly by Edsel Ford, as an 



opportunity to take the machine as an object of modem ait, not in the gauzy, 
distant way that impressionists depicted trains running through a green valley 
or steam rising froma factory mill. Rather, he wanted, in his words, to bring the 
Rouge's ''noise, smoke, and dust" directly into the institute's ''charming 
sanctum," to unsettle the city swells. When he had finished, the museum's 
patrons did complain of the aideness of his work. Asked why he hadn't chosen 
a more "traditional" subject, a still life, say, or a landscape, Rivera said that he 
"found any factory more significant and beautiful than any of the subjects they 
suggested." Collectively known as Detroit Industry, Rivera's murals are perhaps 
the most faithful tribute ever composed not just to the Rouge's power but to the 
holism of Henry Ford's thinking, even though Ford makes only a cameo 
appearance, in a small panel where he is teaching a trade school engine class- 

The murals comprise two major panels, along with a series of minor ones, 
mixing techniques drawn from cubism and futurism, social realism, classical and 
Renaissance art, and traditionalAztec, Mayan, and Olmec motifs to depict over 
fifty major Rouge operations. The courtyard's north wall features towering 
spindles, casting boxes, sand blasters, rolling mills, and all of the ovens and 
machines needed to make the recently inaugurated V8 engine and transmission, 
hi the background looms a volcano-like blast furnace, illuminated by flares of 
yellow, red, and orange. Rivera called the making of steel a thing of "plastic 
beauty," as "beautiful as the early Aztec or Mayan sculptures." The south wall 
mural, which depicts the finishing work of making a car, the stamping, pressing, 
welding, painting, and testing, is more restrained in terms of color and 
technique. Elsewhere in the courtyard, Rivera portrays other elements of the 
Rouge, its aviation and boat production, railroads, and powerhouses. 

Unlike the haunting, unpeopled work of Charles Sheeler, who around the 
same time was capturing the Rouge in a series of widely publicized photographs 
and paintings, Rivera's frescoes are jammed with overall-clad workers 
— painters, welders, forgers, female sparkplug testers, and even accountants 
— all the human energy that went into building a car. Productive motion is 
conveyed by contraposition. On the north waif men, particularly those in the 
foreground, all seem to be bending backward, their muscular bodies pulling one 
thing or another. On the south, they lean forward, into their work. "I thought of 
the millions of different men by whose combined labor and thought automobiles 
were produced," Rivera said in his autobiography, "fromthe miners who dug 
the iron ore out of the earth to the railroad men and teamsters who brought the 
finished machines to the consumer," conquering "space and time" and winning 
"ever-expanding victories . . . against death." 



Rivera, the Marxist, painted a few notes of dis sent, including a small panel 
depicting workers leaving the factory over the pedestrian overpass where 
Bennett's men had gunned down the hunger marchers. While everywhere else 
in the murals humans run into one another, with no clear line fully separating 
one person fromthe next, suggesting connectivity and solidarity, here the 
solemn processional figures are distinct, implying that the alienation other 
critics of capitalism attributed to assembly production begins, for Rivera, at the 
factory's exit. The general mood of the frescoes celebrates determination, 
portraying workers energized by strenuous activity rather than enervated by 
machines. Rivera himself took great pride when an engineer representing a 
group ofChrysler workers praised him for capturing the essence ofthe 
production process, fusing "together, in a few feet, sequences of operations 
which are actually performed in a distance of at least two miles, and every inch 
of his work is technically correct." The only thing missing, another group of 
workers told Rivera, was the factory whistle. 



blend of illusion and reality in the. American consciousness. " 

How Rivera managed this compression is the point where his frescoes move 
frommerely representing the Rouge to embodying the idea behind it. Fordismis 
defined as an industrial process that breaks down the human movement that 
goes into making a product — in Ford's case a car — into its simplest component 
and then uses assembly lines to choreograph that movement to achieve 
maximum efficiency. It is a process that is impossible to observe sequentially 
over time, that is, by following the steps needed to transfomiraw material into 
finished product, since Fordismin its totality combines multiple subassembly 
processes that take place simultaneously — like a "river and its tributaries" 
— before converging in a main trunk line. Rivera achieved this effect by 
applying the medieval technique of polyscenic narrative, in which multiple 
scenes are placed together in a unified space. Such polyscenic narration usually 
tells a story overtime, with the same characters appearing in different scenes 
that take place chronologically, that is, one after the other. The Detroit murals, 
however, illustrate specific tasks taking place in different places during a single 
moment, compressing into an integrated visual image the Rouge's intense 
interconnectivity and unrelenting flow. While medieval painters separated 
scenes with columns, archways, and windows, Rivera made use of Albert 
Kahn's snakelike conveyor belts and steel girders to move viewers from one 
discrete job to another, from foregrounded die and press workers to the foundry 
men deep in the painting's recesses, the whole thing backlighted orange by the 
forge fire.— 

If Rivera's two principal panels sought to freeze in a single instance the 
multiple, simultaneous motions needed to produce a car (a defining feature of 
modernismis its reduction of experience to an explosive "now"), he also, in a 
series of surrounding paintings, revealed an appreciation of the millennia it took 
to produce both the raw materials and the human labor needed to make a Ford 
car. Above each of the two main frescoes are narrow oblong frames depicting 
geological sedimentation, layers of rock, fossil, crystals, limestone, caistaceans, 
and sand — -in other words, the prehistory of much of the raw materials that fed 
the Rouge's forges, ovens, and furnaces (as well as the frescoes themselves, as 
tons of sand and limestone were needed to mixplaster and pigments). 
Elsewhere, Rivera included what could be a scene fro man Upper Peninsula 
forest and a rubber tree being harvested by what appears to be Brazilian tappers 
(though no Fordlandia latexhad yet made it to the Rouge). And at the top of the 
walls, above the oblong geological panels, Rivera painted fournude females, 
allegorical representations ofthe world's great races, which produced the 



workers needed to extract the resources from the earth. In both style and 
sentiment, these allegories connect Rivera's Detroit frescoes to his Mexican 
murals, which often contained idealized, romantic portrayals of the glories of 
Aztecs orOlmecs, progenitors, in Rivera's epic visual history, ofMexico's 
revolutionary nationalism 



Neither Rivera nor Ford saw a contradiction in celebrating the power of 
machinery and science while at the same time idealizing a lost past. Ford shared 
Rivera's sense that his factory resulted from the collision of multiple time 
frames: industrial, geological, mytho-historical. Influenced by the eclectic 
spiritualism of his time, as well by his favorite author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, he 
repeatedly voiced beliefs that resonated with Rivera's upper panels — in 
reincarnation, in the existence of an "over-soul" composed of the accumulated 
experience of past lives, in the idea that "memory never dies." "We remember 
things frompast lives in our present life," and not just individually but 
collectively, Ford said. He believed that the earth had nourished and lost many 
civilizations over millions of years— like Rivera's Aztecs and Olmecs — and that 
the knowledge produced by these civilizations had, in some mystical way, been 
handed down, culminating in the advancements of modem industry. "What 
survived is wisdom — the essence of experience."— 

RTVERALOST FUMSELF not just in the River Rouge in preparation for his 
Detroit murals but also in Greenfield Village, Ford's elaborate homage to rural 
America. By the time the Mexican painter arrived in the Motor City, Ford had 
added antique collecting to his many other late-in-life passions. He had begun 
acquiring historical curios since at least 1906, when he started buying pieces of 
Edisoniana, anything to do with the life and work of his mentor and friend 
Thomas Edison, as well as copies of his beloved childhood school textbook, 
William Holmes McGuffey's Eclectic Reader. But collecting became a much 
more intense occupation following his humiliating 1919 trial, which was 
convened to settle a suit he filed against the Chicago Tribune for calling him an 
"anarchist." Ford's lengthy testimony became the talk of the country, as 
newspapers reported on his apparent illiteracy and his ignorance of historical 
events such as the American Revolution and the War of 1898. Asked to say 
who Benedict Arnold was, Ford replied: "He's a writer, I think," prompting hoots 
of laughter from the courthouse audience. It was around this time that he first 
proclaimed that "history is bunk," an opinion he would repeat throughout the 
1930s and 1940s. "I say history is bunk — bunk — double bunk," he said in 1940. 
"Why, it isn't even true." 

Ford was condemning not so much all references to the past as a particular 
interpretation ofhistory, one that emphasized great men and their deeds. As 
historian Steven Watts has noted, Ford saw history in "surprisingly modem 
terms," not as an "empirical recovery of absolute taith but as interpretations of 
the past." If history was being "rewritten every year from a new point of view," 
how then, he asked, could "anybody claim to know the truth about history?" 



Ford's answer was to reject "great-man" history in favor of an account rooted in 
the s low evolutionary changes that occur in the "everyday life and work of 
ordinary people." He might not have been able to say what the War of 1898 
was, but Ford was sure that stories of the kind that hailed the heroics of 
Theodore Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill, even if they were true — which 
he doubted they were — had little to do with what drove progress. "The real 
history of a people was not expressed in wars," he said, "but in the way they 
lived and worked. . . . The history of America wasn't written in Washington, it 
was written in the grass roots." And any history book that celebrated "guns 
and speeches" but ignored the "harrows and all the rest of daily life is bunk," 
Ford insisted.— 

Driving home fromthe trial, which he won, though the six-cent settlement he 
received was more a rebuke than a vindication, Ford turned to his secretary, 
Ernest Liebold, and said, "I'mgoing to start up a museum and give people a true 
picture of the development of the country." He also soon decided to build a 
town to go with the museum, asking without any prior conversation Edward 
Cutler, an architect in his employ, to draw him plans fora village. It was, said 
Cutler, "purely imaginative." 

Overthe next decade, Ford became the most famous antique collector in the 
world. Crates arrived daily in Dearborn, filling up the bays and warehouse of 
Building 13 of his now vacant tractor plant (production had been moved to the 
Rouge). Trucks and Michigan Central boxcars delivered anything one could 
imagine related to the mechanical or decorative aits — cast-iron stoves, sewing 
machines, threshers, plows, baby bottles, scaibbing boards, saucepans, 
vacuum cleaners, inkwells, steam engines, oil lamps, typewriters, mirrors, barber 
chairs, hobby horses, fire engines, kitchen utensils, Civil War drums, trundle 
beds, rocking chairs, benches, tables, spinning wheels, music boxes, violins, 
clocks, lanterns, kettles, cradles, candle molds, airplanes, trains, and cars. "We 
are trying," Ford told a New York Times reporter, "to assemble a complete series 
of every kind of article used or made in America fromthe days of the first 
settlers down to now. When we are through we shall have reproduced American 
life as lived."— 

In October 1927 — -just a few days after Para's legislature ratified Ford's 
Tapajos concession — Ford began work on both his town and his museum, 
modeled on Philadelphia's Independence Hall, to house and display his 
collection. Bulldozers cleared a two-hundred-acre lot and leveled offa knoll 
overlooking the Rouge River and workers started to lay the foundation for the 



Martha-Mary Chapel — built with bricks from the church where Clara and Henry 
were married and named after their respective mothers. Just upstream lay Ford's 
Fair Lane estate, a few miles downriver stood the Rouge factory, and the new 
town was built almost in the shadow of the smokestack crown of the complex's 
Powerhouse No. 1 — eight chimneys as harmonious in their proportions as the 
eight columns holding up each of the Parthenon's two facades. "life flows," 
Ford liked to repeat, but he would have a say in its course. Just as Blakeley and 
Vlllares were felling the first trees at Boa Vista, surveyors squared the site of a 
village green and workers began to lay railroad tracks and reassemble the scores 
of buildings that had been shipped from all over America — an 1803 Connecticut 
post office, the Wright brothers ' bicycle shop, Abraham Lincoln's Illinois 
courtroom, Luther Burbank's botanical lab from California, Edgar Allan Poe's 
Newark cottage, the homes of Patrick Henry, Daniel Webster, and Walt 
Whitman, Ford's childhood family farm, the Detroit shed where he built his first 
gas-powered "quadricycle," and, of course, Thomas Edison's Menlo Park, New 
Jersey, laboratories.— Ford named the settlement Greenfield Village, after his 
wife's childhood county, which by then had been absorbed by Detroit's sprawl. 

Ford demanded historical faithfulness, ordering his engineers to rescue as 
much original detail from the structures and their surroundings as possible. For 
Edison's Menlo Park complex, he had seven boxcar loads of red clay shipped 
from New Jersey, along with the stump of an old hickory tree that was on the 
grounds. "Ffm!" said Edison upon seeing the restoration, "the same damn old 
New Jersey clay!" Greenfield Village had everything that one could imagine as 
defining an American town before the arrival of Fordist mass production — a 
town hall, schools, a fire station, a doctor's office, a blacksmith, covered 
bridges, clapboard residences with neat flower gardens, and even liquor bottles 
(filled with colored water) in the inn's taverns, which Ford the teetotaler only 
grudgingly allowed after being urged by his wife. There was one detail, though, 
one mainstay of nineteenth-century small-town America, that Ford refused to 
replicate: a bank. The Ford Motor Company may have been forced to go into 
the lending business by setting up its Universal Credit Corporation, but Ford's 
vision of Americana would remain pure. His Main Street would stay forever 
untainted by Wall Street.^ 

Many in the press judged Ford's antiquarianism with contempt, pointing out 
the irony of the man singularly responsible for the disappearance of small-town 
America now claiming to be its restorer. "With his left hand he restores a self- 
sufficient little eighteenth-century village," wrote the Nation, "but with his right 



hand he had already caused the land to be dotted red and yellow with filling 
stations." "It was," said the New York Times, "as if Stalin went in for collecting 
old ledgers and stock-tickers," The New Republic chimed in: "Mr. Ford might be 
less interested in putting an extinct civilization into a museum if he had not 
done so mich to make it extinct." And many intellectuals were particularly 
disapproving of his museum Ford refused to consult curators to guide his 
collecting (even as in the Amazon he was forswearing botanists to help with his 
aibber plantation). One assistant remembers that Ford was "afraid of bringing in 
experts whose opinions might run counter to his." When his museum finally 
opened, it looked like, as one historian put it, "the world's biggest rummage 
s ale , " organized with no rhyme or reason.— 




When an interviewer asked Edward Cutler, the architect of Greenfield Village, rendered 
above in a 1 934 tourist map, if it \\us true that "just out of the clear sky one day. Ford 
asked yon to draw a village, " Cutler replied "yes. " 

There was, however, logic at work The vision of technological progress on 



display ill Ford's museum and village — from the crafts era through mechanical 
steam engines to industrial manufacturing — was obviously self-serving, ending 
in the revolution in mass production that he presided over. Yet there is also a 
deep weariness revealed in this vision, a distrust of the flash of consumerism 
that had overtaken the American economy, driven by dotted-line loans and the 
induced demand of "trumpery and trinkets," as Ford put it, goods which 
performed "no real service to the world and are at last mere rubbish as they were 
at first mere waste." Conceived during the roiling twenties when his company 
was forced to adopt yearly model changes and easy loans, Geenfield Milage 
and its museum, along with Ford's obsessive, massive collecting of material 
goods and historical buildings, was an antidote to the fetishism of cheap 
consumer products that had overtaken the economy, and the hucksterismthat 
sold them The stock market crash and the onset of an intractable depression, 
followed by the aftershocks of successive banking crises, only heightened 
Ford's desire for solidity. The items in his village and museumembodied the 
social relations and knowledge that went into making them, preserving the 
essence, in fact the breath — when it opened, his museum displayed Thomas 
Edison's last exhalation, captured by his son in a test tube at Ford's request 
— of a more durable American experience. "We learn from the past not only 
what to do but what not to do," Ford once told an interviewer. "Whatever is 
produced today has something in it of everything that has gone before. Even a 
present-day chair embodies all previous chairs, and if we can show the 
development of the chair in tangible form we shall teach better than we can in 
books." He said that one shouldn't "regard these thousands of inventions, 
thousands of things which man has made, as just so many material objects. You 
can read in every one of them what the man who made them was thinking 
— what he was aiming at. A piece of machinery or anything that is made is like a 
book, if you can read it. It is part of the record of man's spirit."— 

DIEGO RIVERA DIDN'T share the scorn other intellectuals and artists 
heaped on Greenfield Milage. During his stay in Detroit, Rivera visited the model 
town, wandering around its streets, houses, mills, and workshops from seven in 
the morning to one thirty the next. He recognized its sense of proportion and 
how it related to the nearby River Rouge plant. "As I walked on, marveling at 
each successive mechanical wonder," he recalled in his memoirs, "I realized that 
I was witnessing the history of machinery, as if on parade, fromits primitive 
beginnings to the present day, in all its complex and astounding elaboration."— 

The holism that Rivera identified in Ford represents a particular kind of 



pastoralism, an American pastoraHsmthat didn't oppose nature and 
industrialization, or man and the machine, but saw each fulfilling the other. 
Much of Ford's faith that industry and agriculture could be balanced and that 
community would be fulfilled rather than overrun by capitalist expansion drew 
specifically from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Yet it's a conviction that had deep roots 
in American thought. As historian Leo Marxhas pointed out, with the exception 
ofthe Southern slave states, American history reveals little opposition to 
mechanization and industrialization. America itself, Marx wrote, has often been 
held up by many of its celebrants as a machine in the New World garden, 
representing both a release of historical energy through the ''seizure of the 
underlying principles of nature" and a domestication of that power through its 
Constitution — described as a "machine that would go of itself," a self- 
regulating, synchronized system of checks and balances.— 

The main struts of Henry Ford's philosophy all had antecedents in 
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American political and literary concepts: 
that mechanization marked not the conquest but the realization of nature's 
secrets and thus the attainment of the pastoral ideal; that history is best 
understood as the progress of this realization, of the gradual liberation of 
humans fromsoul-crushing toil; and that America has a providential role to play 
in world history in achieving this liberation. It was from such wellsprings of 
technological optknismthat Ford was drawing when he predicted that his 
Muscle Shoals project would "make a new Eden of our Mississippi \alley, 
turning it into the great garden and powerhouse ofthe country." Against 
Marxists who warned that an impending "crisis of overproduction" would bring 
down capitalism, Ford countered by predicting that "the day of actual 
overproduction is the day of emancipation fromens laving materialistic anxiety." 
To those who thought industrialization deadened mind and spirit, Ford 
responded by saying that want was the true cause of alienation. "The 
unfortunate man whose mind is continually bent to the problem of his next meal 
or the next night's shelter is a materialist perforce," he said. "Now, emancipate 
this man by economic security and the appurtenances of social decency and 
comfort, and instead of making him more of a materialist you liberate him."— 

These and similar pronouncements were not merely self-aggrandizing 
conceits on Ford's part. Many saw the cheap, durable car he made available to 
the multitudes as the "spontaneous fruit of an Edenic tree," to quote the 
Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gas set's description ofthe quickness with 
which man embraced the automobile. What else could explain the effortlessness 



with which the Model T, after its demise, could be transformed into an object of 
pastoral nostalgia, as ornery as the animal it replaced? "If the emergency brake 
hadn't been pulled all the way back," E. B. White wrote in a 1936 New Yorker 
essay titled "Farewell, My Lovely," "the car advanced on you the instant the 
first explosion occurred and you would hold it back by leaning your weight 
against it. I can still feel my old Ford nuzzling me at the curb, as though looking 
for an apple in my pocket."— 

As a response to the Great Depression, Ford's drive for balance and holistic 
self-sufficiency manifested itself in a number of ways: he increased his 
co mmit m e nt to village industries and hydroelectricity; he said small household 
gardens would do more to offset poverty than government relief and urged his 
River Rouge workers to grow their own food; and he promoted his 
"Industrialized American Bam" at the 1934 Chicago World's Fair as a solution to 
the farm crisis. Ford also stepped up his funding of "chemurgical" (a neologism 
coined in 1934, combining the Greek words cherm, or the art of material 
transformation, and ergon, work) experiments, many of which took place in 
Greenfield Milage's laboratory, to find new industrial uses for agricultural 
products. Many of his ideas were harebrained, an industrial version of medieval 
alchemy. Ford once had a truckload of carrots dumped in front of Greenfield 
Milage's lab and told its chemists to find useful properties from their pulp. But 
he did have some significant successes. Iron Mountain chemists figured out 
how to use wood chips to make artificial leather, while the lab at Greenfield 
Village developed many new uses for soy meal and soy oil. 

There is symmetry at work in what Ford thought he was doing at Dearborn 
and what he hoped to accomplish on the Tapajos, and the progress of both 
Greenfield Milage and Fordlandia proceeded on remarkably parallel tracks, 
functioning almost as counterweights to each other in a pendulum clock, 
counting out the last long stretch of Henry Ford's long life. Ford's experience 
with model towns and village industries in the Upper Peninsula and lower 
Michigan set the stage for his frustrated Muscle Shoals proposal and then for 
both Greenfield Village and Fordlandia. 

This evolution of thought partly explains why Ford never bothered to seek 
the guidance of other corporations such as Hershey or the United Fruit 
Company, even though they had long experience building and running 
company towns in Cuba, Central America, and elsewhere. Fordlandia was to 
benefit from the combined knowledge of Ford's many village projects in the 
United States. In the Amazon, Ford fully expected that chemists would turn the 
minerals, oils, and plants found on his estate into lubricating grease, fuels, 



paints, soaps, rope, fertilizers, and insecticides. Fordlandia 's managers sent 
hundreds of samples back to Dearborn, as well as to Chicago's Field Museum, 
and today one can find dusty boxes in the Ford Archives filled with seeds, 
barks, and leaves of a variety of tropical flora, accompanied by notes indicating 
their acidity and nitrogen levels, as well as their ash, sodium, and lime content. 
Just as Ford hoped his village industries would achieve self-sufficiency through 
hydroelectricity, he thought that the Tapajos would provide enough power to 
limit the use of purchased gasoline; that the sawmill would cut hardwood not 
just for local use but for sale to support the plantation; that not just proper 
hygiene and decent health care but flower gardens and square dancing — which 
Ford would promote in Fordlandia as a response to the December 1930 riot 
— would cultivate virtuous workers; and that all of this applied craftwork, 
supplemented by Ford-founded and -funded schools, would produce a new 
generation of skilled workers. This is why so many of the men — Rogge, 
Mulrooney, Weeks, Perini, and others — along with their wives and children, 
who went down to start and run Fordlandia were from the Upper Peninsula, 
where the Ford Motor Company had first tried to combine the rational and 
efficient harnessing of nature with the orderly and aesthetic organization of 
humans . 

OVER THE COURSE of the 1930s, Ford's vision began to turn in on itself. 
Before the Great Depression, the Ford Motor Company could seriously have 
claimed to have solved many of the most pressing problems that arose from the 
Industrial Revolution. It proved that capitalism could benefit not just the banker 
or the monopolist but the masses. And it showed how mechanization could not 
just drive down labor costs but increase buying power and free individuals from 
menial labor, allowing them more time for personal enjoyment and satisfaction 
outside the factory gates. But modem consumer capitalismcreated a whole new 
set of problems, aggravated by a depression seemingly without end. 

Ford lived long enough to see himself and his systemof production 
implicated in many of the vices he preached against. He also witnessed the 
ascendancy of Theodore Roosevelt's cousin Franklin as head of a political 
coalition— the New Deal— that was setting America's reform agenda. Ford's 
opposition to FDR and his program of government regulation flowed fromthe 
same kind of pastoralismthat powered his technological optimism a view of 
industry and nature as existing in fundamental harmony by extension tends to 
take even the mildest form of government interference as perverse- Of course, 
his exhortations to self-reliance and patronage of village industries had as little 
chance of solving the problems revealed by the Great Depression as Fordlandia 



managers had of taming the Amazon. Yet Ford never relented in his 
condemnation of the New Deal's solution to the crisis: the promotion of 
unionism, government regulation ofindustry, and establishment of federal 
relief. 

Specifically, Ford refused to warm to Roosevelt and his New Dealers. 
"People like that," he told Charles Lindbergh, "always get what's coming to 
them" But Ford not only saw the country elect FDR four times but witnessed 
the federal government complete its Tennessee \alley Authority project, in 
effect carrying out the Muscle Shoals proposal Ford made a decade earlier.- 1 It 
would be Roosevelt and not Henry Ford who would bring cheap electric power 
to the fanners of the lower Appalachian \alley.— 

hi the last years of his life, Ford responded to these setbacks by losing 
himself in the past, in the details of Greenfield Village. Even as the Chrysler 
Corporation was pushing ahead despite the financial crash with its namesake 
modernist masterpiece in the busy heart ofNew York City, Ford was fussing 
overspinning wheels and rag dolls. And as GM and other businesses were 
rationalizing the modem corporate management structure, Ford's once 
revolutionary company was turning gothic, presided over by a gangster who 
ran the labor force as if he were a medieval lord.— 

Ford fell into a depression when his longtime friend Thomas Edison died in 
late 1931. The carmaker would preside over one more breakthrough engineering 
triumph: the V8 engine, introduced in 1932, would serve as the industry 
standard for decades to come. But Ford's body and mind began to yield. He 
continued to dress with precision, his back revealing only the slightest of 
stoops. And in interviews, he could still rouse himself to gracious animation of 
the kind he displayed to the Brazilian consul Jose Custodio Alves de Lima years 
earlier. He was charming when hosting Diego Rivera and his wife, Frida Kahlo, 
for dinner during their stay in Detroit, even after Kahlo asked him if he was 
Jewish. Yet those close to him noted that he was losing his sense of humor, and 
the malevolent side of his personality was becoming more manifest. Ford had 
renounced his public anti-Semitism, but in his private conversations with his old 
Independent staff, as well as with friends like Charles Lindbergh, the main point 
of conversations remained "the Jews." They, along with the Communists, CM, 
the Du Ponts, and FDR, Ford was sure, were trying to take over his factory. And 
though, as some have noted, his anti-Semitismremained detached from the 
close relations he had with many Jews, the nastiness he began to show his 
close associates, including the sadism with which he treated his son, Edsel, was 



visceral. As was his stoking of Harry Bennett's brutality. "Harry, let's you and 
himhave a fight," Ford would gleefully whisper to his enforcer, siccing him on a 
troublesome worker.— 

The balance Ford tried to achieve between industry and agriculture, society 
and community, gave way to a full-on retreat into antiquarianism Between the 
River Rouge and Greenfield Village, Ford increasingly preferred the latter. Nearly 
every morning found him at its Martha-Mary Chapel, where the village 
schoolchildren started their days singing hymns. "He spent so much time 
around the village," remembered Edward Cutler, the architect who had planned 
Greenfield. "It was a relief for him to get down there." Ford would walk the 
village streets, sit under a tree and play his mouth haip, or warmliimself by a 
fireside hearth. He refused, at least during the village's early years, to have a 
telephone installed. "He didn't want any way for them to get a hold of him," 
remembered Cutler.— 

Frank Lloyd Wright, who earlier had praised Ford's vision for Muscle 
Shoals, was less understanding than Rivera ofwhat he condemned as Ford's 
unrestrained traditionalism Speaking of a trip he made to the River Rouge early 
in the Depression, Wright praised a building designed by Albert Kahn as a 
perfect synthesis of fonnand function. "It was really a fine thing," he said, 
"eight hundred feet long, beautifully lighted. The sun was shining in it, and 
over about half of the shining surface of maple flooring was planted with 
wonderful machinery, with men working at the machines." But Ford — "the 
captain" as Wright called him— was nowhere to be found. He was "out playing" 
in his museum with his "old things, . . . reprehensible enough in themselves, and 
now worthless." Such antique "slumming," Wright thought, was part of a 
general escape from the innovative modemismofthe 1920s intoasham 
traditionalism (an escape likewise represented by the wanderlust ballads that so 
entranced John Rogge on the Tapajos). Besides, Ford's "old cast-off things" 
weren't even American. Real Americanism was vital and organic, like Kahn's 
River Rouge. What Ford was collecting was "Georgian" carried over "to this 
new freedomby the Colonials because they had none other or better to bring." 

Wright couldn't explain Ford's turn. "This is a man," he said, "from whom 
the future had a right to expect something more than sentimentality."— 

In the Amazon, too, Ford's vision began to split apart. He took a personal 
hand in many of the decisions involved in rebuilding Fordlandia after the 1930 
riot, particularly as they related to education and recreation. Yet as the 
attainment of the original motive for the project — to grow rubber — became 



increasingly elusive, Fordlandia became more and more a museumpiece, Ford's 
vision of Americanism frozen in amber. 



-This point was underscored after Ford's death when the president of Ford 
Motor Company, Robert McNamara, joined the John F. Kennedy administration 
as secretary of defense, a position in which he used industrial "systems theory" 
to rationalize warfare and wage "mechanized, dehumanizing slaughter" from the 
skies over Vietnam. See Gabriel Kolko, "On the Avoidance of Reality," Crimes of 
War, ed. Richard Falk, Gabriel Kolko, and Robert Jay Lifton, New York: Vintage, 
1971, p. 15. 

-Four years earlier, in his Ministry of Education mural in Mexico City, Rivera 
painted a ghastly Ford sitting at a banquet table, along with J. P. Morgan and 
John D. Rockefeller, reading a stock market ticker tape. 

-Ford's patronage of chemurgy, for instance, was an attempt to provide a 
corporate, private-sector alternative to government remedies for the airal crisis; 
if the industrial market for crops could be enlarged, there would be no need to 
regulate agricultural production, as the New Dealers proposed (Howard P. Segal, 
Recasting the Machine Age: Henry Folds Village Industries, Amherst: 
University of Massachusetts Press, 2005, p. 34). 

^Roosevelt signed the TVAAct on May 18, 1933, shortly after his 
inauguration. The legislation was sponsored in Congress by none other than 
George Norris, the Nebraskan senator who led the campaign that successfully 
denied Ford Muscle Shoals nine years earlier. The act created the Tennessee 
Valley Authority, which soon became a working laboratory for many of the New 
Deal's rural initiatives and a testing ground for a new aesthetic style that sought 
to reconcile regionalism with modernism Spectacularly successful, the TVA 
brought together hydraulic and electrical engineers, doctors, architects, 
economists, teachers, artists, and thousands of well-paid, unionized workers to 
carry out an enormous experiment in social planning. As Arthur Morgan, the 
engineer in charge of the project, put it, the "Tennessee Valley is the first place 
in America where we can sit down and design a civilization." Despite Ford's 
antipathy, many New Dealers drew inspiration from the carmaker's village 
industries and used the TVA to complete an ambitious agenda that included 
many of Ford's favorite ideas: dambuilding for flood control and 
hydroelectricity, dredging to improve navigation, reforestation, efforts to stem 
soil erosion, and prevention of disease, including malaria and hookworm They 
even created a model town, Norris, Tennessee, named after Ford's adversary 



and described as a "rural-urban community where 1000 to 2000 people can have 
four-acre family gardens, modem city conveniences of pure water, electricity for 
cooking and heating, attractive homes, and the added interest of a town forest." 
Like Ford, FDR imagined the development of the Tennessee Valley having an 
exemplary effect on the whole country. He said that Muscle Shoals would 
become "part of an even greater development that will take in all that 
magnificent Tennessee River from the mountains of Mrginia to the Ohio," 
benefiting "generations to come" and "millions yet unborn." In many of the 
discussions surrounding the TVA, an implicit analogy was drawn between the 
raging, uncontrolled, and flood-prone river with an unregulated boom-and-bust 
economy and the need for government intervention and planning to put both in 
service to human beings. FDR drew a similar comparison in his 1935 dedication 
of another large-scale public works project, the Hoover Dam in Nevada: "As an 
unregulated river, the Colorado added little of value to the region this dam 
serves . When in flood the river was a threatening torrent. In the dry months of 
the year it shrank to a trickling stream For a generation, [residents] had lived in 
the shadow of disaster from this river which provided their livelihood, and 
which is the foundation of their hopes for themselves and their children. Every 
spring they awaited with dread the coming of a flood, and at the end of nearly 
every summer they feared a shortage of water would destroy their crops." See 
WilliamE Leuchtenburg, "Roosevelt, Norris, and the 'Seven Little T\As,' " 
Journal of Politics 14 (1952): 418-41; Arthur Morgan, Log of the TVA , New 
York: Survey Associates, 1936, p. 19; TimCulvahouse, ed., The Tennessee Valley 
Authority: Design and Persuasion, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 
2007. 



CHAPTER 17 

GOOD LINES, STRAIGHT AND TRUE 

BACK IN BRAZIL, A "PALL" SETTLED "OVER EVERYTHING" IN 
FORDlandia once the immediate threat of the December 1930 riot passed, a 
report back to Dearborn said. The Americans returned to their homes, but in the 
months after the clash they felt "intimidated" and "not sure that they cared to 
remain" on the plantation. They seemed paralyzed, "waiting for something to 
happen." The women were nervous, the men on edge. The skeleton crew of 
workers retained by James Kennedy had begun rebuilding the plantation's 
physical plant. Electricians got the generator working again, and laborers 
installed windows, hung doors, and fished trucks out ofthe Tapajos. Yet a 
sense of distress, of impending trouble, remained. It was as if the shock of the 
Great Depression, held at bay through 1930 by the magic of Ford wealth, had 
finally arrived on the Tapajos. 

Even before the uprising, Ford had feared that his namesake plantation was 
spinning out of control into a cesspool of waste, vice, and ridicule. For a brief 
period after the departure of Qxholm, under first Victor Perini's and then John 
Rogge's supervision, the situation seemed to be improving. But the riot created 
a new sense of concern and urgency. So in February 1931, he once again sent 
Victor Perini, who a year earlier was forced to leave the plantation due to chronic 
edema, to make things right. This time Perini was accompanied by W. E. 
Carnegie, Ford's head accountant, and Archibald Johnston, a Sorensen man 
from the River Rouge. 

Many on staff thought the team had come to shutterthe plantation. In the 
United States, Ford was spending much of his company's savings on keeping 
his American business running and one newspaper after another announced 
that he was planning to abandon his Brazilian operations. "Report Ford Ending 
Para Rubber Work," ran a February 1931 headline in the New York Times. 
"Americans Assert Tropical Laborers Cannot Be Made to Punch a Time Clock as 
in North." Yet the Dearborn representatives did not announce, as many thought 
they would, the end of Fordlandia. They instead reaffirmed the company's 
commitment to build a "model city" in the jungle, one complete with restaurants, 
shops, churches, schools, decent, well-maintained houses, and "places of 
amusement." Once the town was established, Carnegie told a reporter from the 
Times, it would "elect its own Mayor, maintain its own fire department and 
police force and levy and collect its own taxes. In other words, it will manage its 
own affairs as a strictly independent community. "- 

"The plan is one of expansion," Carnegie continued, "by which the Brazilian 
people and the company will be brought together in a closer union of interests." 

FOLLOWING A COSTLYriot, in the midst of a worldwide economic 
contraction seemingly without end, with his company for the first time ever 



running a deficit, even as rubber prices were tumbling. Ford decided to allot 
even more resources to his Brazilian venture. He did quietly send out feelers to 
see if any Brazilian interests would purchase the concession but was told that 
no one "would put money into the Rubber Conpany where there was no 
prospect of obtaining a profit for many years to come.''' And he continued to 
fund the efforts of the now eighty-four-y ear-old Thomas Edison, right up to 
Edison's death in 1931, to extract industrial-quality latex from goldenrod and 
other plants. Yet while Edison announced to the press that he was drinking an 
all-milk diet so that he would live long enough to find an alternative to tropical 
rubber, he told Ford that the production of synthetic latex was not feasible. 
When Soviet scientists issued a report around this time claiming that they had 
synthesized industrial-quality rubber frompetroleum, the inventor, insisting that 
oil could not be turned into latex, denounced it as a fake. "It just can 't be done," 
he said. Edison's opinion might have influenced the carmaker's decision to keep 
Fordlandia going.— 

In truth, Ford couldn't just abandon a project literally linked to his name, 
one so grandiloquently proclaimed to the world. And here the Depression 
actually reinforced the decision to stay in the Amazon. Back home Ford was 
spending even more money on his village industry projects, which by this point 
had evolved from a remedy for the dislocations of the twenties to a strategy for 
surviving the 1930s. "There may be no immediate business reason for 
decentralization," admitted a Ford spokesman in 1935, "but there may be a 
human reason . . . and it would seem that our life is such that what is humanly 
desirable and morally right presently justifies itself as being economically 
practical." And though shop-floor reality was quite different — with stalled 
assembly lines and drastically reduced hours forworkers — Henry and Edsel, 
through 1930 and 1931, repeatedly told the press that not only would they not 
cut wages, they would invest even more money in the River Rouge. The same 
boosterism took place in the Amazon.— 

A miracle was needed in those bleak first years of the Depression. And Ford 
was only too happy to supply one. His conpany reversed its previous tight- 
lipped policy regarding Fordlandia, which it had adopted in the wake of the 
concession scandal, and began issuing press releases and supplying facts and 
statistics to any reporter interested in Ford's operations on the Tapajos. And 
sure enough, there began to appear after the riot a series of articles in US and 
Brazilian papers reprising the fanfare that had announced the original settlement 
a few years earlier.- 

"No Business Depression Here," ran a headline in the New York Times two 
days after Gnistmas 1931, over a photograph of Ford's Tapajos town. "This is 
Fordlandia," the caption said, "where the automobile manufacturer is spending 
millions of dollars on the scientific growing of rubber. The settlement, once a 



waste, has been converted into a model city where high wages prevail." Around 
the same time, the Washington Post wrote that "electricity and running water in 
native homes were miracles undreamed before Henry Ford went to the tropics to 
develop his own sources of rubber supply" The Chicago Tribune likewise 
reported on the "modem city" rising in the jungle, one that would soon boast 
hundreds of "Swiss cottage type" homes, along with shops, parks, a church, a 
bank, a movie theater, and bus service: "Fordlandia, an up-to-date town with all 
modem comforts, has been created in a wilderness that never had seen 
anything more pretentious than a thatched hut. Water is supplied under 
pressure after it has been thoroughly filtered to remove dangers of fever 
infection, and electric light illuminated bungalows in a region where such 
inventions are proof of the white man's magic." And in the Upper Peninsula, the 
Imn Mountain Daily News told its readers, many of them Ford employees, that 
"Henry Ford has transplanted a large slice of twentieth century civilization" to 
the Amazon.- 

This was increasingly the justification for Fordlandia, broadcast in the 
material supplied to the press as well as in international company 
correspondence. The longer it took the plantation to achieve its original 
purpose and produce latex, the more it was defended as a missionary project, a 
model for what Ford, and by extension America, could accomplish in the world. 
"Mr. Ford," said the Washington Post in 1932, "not only intends to cultivate 
rubber but the rubber gatherers as well" "A civilizing mission," agreed Major 
Lester Baker in a note published in the Times, a "dream. "- 

For Gerald Drew, who replaced John Minter as the American consul in 
Belem, Ford's utopianismwas the "only theory''' that could explain what he saw 
unfolding on the Tapajos. "Mr. Ford considers the project as a 'work of 
civilization,' " he told his superiors in Washington, including the secretary of 
state. Nothing else, he said, could explain the extravagant sums of money the 
company was spending on Fordlandia.— 

Over the next decade, the company downplayed the need for rubber as 
providing Fordlandia 's rationale and instead emphasized its civilizing mission. 
On Ford 's Sunday Evening Hour, broadcast nationally, Linton Wells , the 
baritone-voiced foreign war correspondent, told listener's how the "skill and 
wits" of the Ford Motor Company had triumphed over the "tricky" and 
"perverse" Amazon jungle. Wells, who during World War II would be tapped by 
FDR to find a possible homeland in Africa for European Jews (he recommended 
Angola), described the creation of the town "on the edge of nowhere" almost 
"like magic" and praised it for containing all the "traditional essentials for 
health, happiness, and well-being." There were "churches, schools, and a 
splendid hospital, with a medical staff fromDetroit's famed Henry Ford 
Hospital. Shops, movies, restaurants, and comfortable homes lined paln>friiiged 



streets. There were electricity, telephone and sanitary services and an 18-hole 
golf course. "- 

Such cheerleading was not just for public consumption. Dearborn officials 
were telling one another the same things throughout the 1930s. After visiting 
the estate, Charles Sorensen wrote to Henry Ford that he should be proud of 
Fordlandia, for it was indeed a ''school of civic education."— 

"I thinkyou would be well advised," wrote one Dearborn manager 
responding to an economics professor who asked for information on Fordlandia 
to include in a lecture, "to point out to your listeners that Mr. Ford's whole 
project is still in an experimental stage — that his experiment is as much 
sociological as industrial. Indeed, it is in the sociological field that he has thus 
far registered his finest achievements in Brazil.' — 

PERTNI AND CARNEGIE, in consultation with Rogge, laid out an ambitious 
plan to have the reality catch up to the promise. The first thing they had to do 
was rebuild the workforce, which had shrunk to a few hundred workers . The 
plantation began to hire again, topping off at about fifteen hundred workers and 
their families — bringing Fordlandia 's population up to around five thousand 
— within half a year. This time, though, the employment office took pains to vet 
applicants more systematically than in the past, when managers were only too 
eager to receive boatloads of job seekers, hiring anyone who was close to 
healthy, to offset the high turnover rate. Perini and Carnegie came to believe 
that during Fordlandia 's first year or so, Einar Oxholmhad unknowingly 
employed labor radicals, along with a "large number of criminals ." The 
plantation therefore began to work more closely with the new\argas 
government, itself involved in an attempt to consolidate its authority. Back in 
the States, the Ford Motor Company, which distrusted the government when it 
came to policy or regulation, had no problem with law enforcement. During the 
first Red Scare, from 1919 to 1921, it had regularly opened its files, including all 
the information on the personal lives of workers gathered in the wake of the 
Five Dollar Day announcement, to local police and the FBI, as a way of rooting 
out potential subversives. At Fordlandia, Perini and Carnegie put a similar 
systemof vigilance into place, with a file opened on every job applicant, to be 
shared as needed with the police and military. Each worker was henceforth 
required to carry a "small book similar to a passport," which would include a 
photograph, fingerprint, signature, and previous police records.— 

The next step was to complete as quickly as possible the "irradiating center 
of civilization," as Edsel described Fordlandia, long promised by Henry Ford 
himself. On the eve of the riot, beyond the American compound and the handful 
of well-built bungalows the skilled workers occupied, Fordlandia as a town 
existed only on the Dearborn blueprints rolled out for reporters two years earlier. 
The bawdy shantytowns on the edge of the plantation had been reduced to 



ashes and quicklime right after the December riot, though the bunkhouses and 
ramshackle village where married workers had lived still stood. As Fordlandia 
began to hire again, single workers and families moved back in. But Perini and 
Carnegie decided that this village was unacceptable, that a proper town needed 
to be raised, with a "civic center" complete with stores, movie theaters, and "all 
other utilities usually found in a city," They also recommended a significant 
expansion of Fordlandia 's school system so that it could enroll all the children 
of the plantation's large labor force. And since it was no longer practical for the 
Ford Motor Company, dependent as it was on riverboat operators, local 
purveyors, and foreign banks, to be, as it had been to that point, the sole source 
of daily necessities, fromshoes and clothing to coffee and food, Perini and 
Carnegie recommended that the plantation contract out to local 
"concessionaries" the right to establish businesses in the new town, with the 
company remaining responsible for health inspections and keeping prices fair 
and low. In keeping with their vision of small-town America, they recommended 
a series of small Maui Street shops, each one specializing in providing a specific 
item or service, such as shoes and haircuts.— 

But before they had a chance to put much of their plan into effect, \4ctor 
Perini was struck sick again. He tried but just couldn't take the wet Amazon 
heat. As occurred during his first visit, his legs and face swelled up, his eyelids 
grew puffy, and his skin broke out in a rash that refused to be soothed by 
lotions or steroids. He returned to Michigan, again just after a few months on 
the Tapajos, and soon after retired from the company, settling with Constance in 
Detroit. Carnegie also had to get back to his accounting responsibilities. And 
Rogge, while considered by Dearborn to be trustworthy and efficient, was 
thought an ineffective supervisor of men, a fact underscored by the events of 
December. He stayed on as an assistant manager, but Archibald Johnston was 
put in charge of rebuilding Fordlandia. 



Archibald Johnston . 

Johnston was forty-seven years old when he took over in the middle of 
1931. Bom in Scotland, he had a thick brogue, intelligent eyes, and bnished- 
back tawny hair and was dubbed the "White Tiger" by the Brazilian press, as 
much for his swift adaptation to jungle living as for his poise in navigating 
through Belem's political scene. Not only did he rebuild the labor force and 
reestablish Ford's authority (with the help of the Brazilian police and military) 
but it was he who finally secured the company's long sought-after tax and tariff 
exemptions.— 

With Rogge and Curtis Pringle as his assistants, Johnston also made some 
progress on turning Fordlandia into a real town. At first he had a hard time 
finding the kind of concessionaires Perini and Carnegie recommended to meet 
the settlement's needs. Local merchants were reluctant to specialize in one or 
two items. Francisco Franco, for instance, across the river, kept a small 
warehouse stocked with knives, rifles, ammunition, rope, candles, grains, sugar, 
shoes and sandals, cooking utensils, and perhaps a guitar or two to advance on 
credit, or to sell outright if cash was on hand, to rubber tappers and other river 
dwellers. But he was hardly likely to open a butcher shop or a shoe store typical 
of an American Main Street. As Mctor Perini reported to Dearborn just prior to 
his departure, merchants "all want to conduct a general store" because in "small 
towns like Santaremit seems to be the custom for a merchant to sell everything 
that he can stock, including liquors of all kinds. They do not look so favorably 
upon the idea of one man running a shoe store, another a grocery, and a third 
man a meat market, as all felt that they should be permitted to sell whatever they 
can"" 



Johnston eventually did contract with enough concessionaires to open a 
bakery, barber shop, shoe store, tailor, a store selling "notions and perfumery," 
two grocery stores, a vegetable and fish market, and a butcher. He also found 
someone to take over the repaired dining hall, now divided between the larger 
"Ford Restaurant" on one side and a slightly more upscale eating place for 
skilled workers on the other.— 

Then he turned to Fordlandia's housing crisis. The plantation's original 
plans from 1928 called for the building of four hundred two -room houses "per 
Ford Motor Co. drawings," at a cost of $1,500 each — clearly insufficient for the 
thousands of workers and their families who had come to the settlement. In 
truth, this failure to address workers' housing needs was not that different from 
what was happening in Michigan. Despite his famed patemalismand 
acquisition of towns like Pequaming, Ford, except for a small experimental 
community of 250 homes, largely tried to avoid providing houses for his 
Dearborn and Detroit workers, believing his high wages would be enough to 
create prosperous neighborhoods. He steadfastly ignored the city's mounting 
housing problems, which had dogged the automobile industry since the 
beginning of its expansion. Workers lived in overcrowded slums, flophouses, 
and tenements, most without decent plumbing, electricity, or heat, with African 
Americans consigned to the worst ofthe lot.-^ 




"TJieie was nothing down theiv to absorb their earnings, "said Ernest Heboid. So 
Fo/dlandia opened a series of shops, including a shoe stom. 

But on the Tapajos, the Ford Motor Company recognized that it couldn't 



escape the responsibility for supplying decent living quarters, and Johnston, in 
the wake of the riot, was determined to get it right. He demolished the 
"disreputable straw village''' where workers with families had crowded, replacing 
it with over a hundred new palm-roofed adobe houses equipped with water and 
electricity and laid out in "good lines, straight and true," He cleaned up the 
riverfront and graded, paved, and named the streets that ran through what was 
finally beginning to look like a rrridwestem town, with sidewalks, streetlamps, 
and red fire hydrants. Dearborn, though, wasn't happy with the thatched 
houses and ordered Johnston to build proper mid western -style clapboard 
bungalows. Johnston tried to reason with his superiors, saying that the huts 
were "no disgrace to the Amazon region." He explained that "the natives are 
quite happy and willing to live in them and as long as they are no detriment to 
the health of Boa Msta, we feel that they should be allowed to use them so why 
build more wood houses now?"— 




A snug bungalow on the Tapajos. 



But it was not thatched roofs and mud walls that impressed visiting 
reporters, who inevitably pointed to Fordlandia's handful of "Swiss cottage 
type" homes and "snug bungalows" as exemplars of a "model colonial town." 
So Johnston and Rogge got to work, and by the end of 1933 there were over 
two hundred "modem houses" for laborers and foremen. 

Designed in Michigan, the houses proved to be totally inappropriate for the 
Amazon climate. Brazilians objected to the window screens that Ford officials 
insisted be used, believing that they served not to keep bugs out but to trap 



them in, ''much as an old-fashioned fly-trap collects flies." Amazon dwellers also 
preferred dirt floors, which were cooler than wood or concrete ones. But \fctor 
Perini, who during his first visit had inspected housing conditions with Dr. 
Beaton, believed that beriberi was caused by sleeping in low-slung hammocks 
with one's back close to the cold clay. So Dearborn ordered that all houses have 
poured concrete for flooring.— 




Straight and true: l-oidlaik/ias Riverside Avenue, with 'lapajos River to the right. 



Metal roots lined with asbestos, chosen by Ford engineers to repel the 
sun's rays, in fact kept heat in. The "workers' houses were hotter than the gates 
of hell," recalled a priest who ministered in Fordlandia, "because some faraway 
engineer decided that a metal roof was better than something more traditional 
like thatch." They were "galvanized iron bake ovens," said Carl LaRue, 
commenting on Fordlandia 's foibles years later. "It is incredible that anyone 
should build a house like that in the tropics." Another visitor described them as 
"midget hells, where one lies awake and sweats the first half of the night, and 
frequently between midnight and dawn undergoes a fierce siege of heat- 
provoking nightmares." They seemed to be "designed by Detroit architects who 
probably couldn't envision a land without snow."— 

Ford managers, said the priest, "never really figured out what country they 
were in." 

They never really figured out who their workers were, either. In addition to 
inappropriate housing, Ford managers laid on a program of civic education and 
wholesome recreation that had little to do with the Amazon — and everything to 
do with America, or at least Henry Ford's understanding of America. 



-Urban poverty in America is often presented as a result of industrial 
decline. Yet historian Thomas Sugrue, in his Hie Origins of the Urban Crisis: 
Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 
1996), argues that the roots of poveity and housing discrimination are 



inextricably linked to the consolidation — not the decline — of American 
industrial capitalism, not only to the refusal of corporate leaders like Ford to 
take responsibility forproviding adequate housing fora growing urban working 
class but to specific choices made by companies to relocate in suburbs and 
other hard -to -unionize rural areas. Meanwhile, in Dearborn, Ford's River Rouge 
African American workers, 12 percent of his total workforce, were isolated in 
poor surrounding townships like Inkster, living in pitiful bungalows, with little 
access to basic services like decent schools for their children. The Great 
Depression finally forced Ford to spend tens ofthousands of dollars to 
rehabilitate Inkster. But it was too little, too late and served only to reinforce 
segregation in Dearborn, which the Ford Motor Company never contested and 
which lasted well into the 1970s. Detroit continued its slide into urban poverty 
as Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler moved more and more of their workout 
of the city. 



CHAPTER 18 
MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON 

THE FIRST TIME CONSTANCE PERINI MET HENRY FORD WAS IN 1926 
as she was lying in bed in his namesake Detroit hospital, recovering from a long 
illness. "Stay right there," he said to family members who made to leave when 
he came in. "I'm not going to hurt anybody." 

"Are you comfortable here?" Ford asked Mrs. Perini. 

"Very much." 

"How do you like Iron Mountain?" he inquired. 

It was winter when the Perinis arrived in the Upper Pensinsula, having come 
from Manchester, England, where Victor worked in the Ford plant, and the 
Michigan town was covered in twelve feet of snow. 

"I don't know what Iron Mountain looks like. All I've seen is roofs and 
snow. They don't even have sidewalks." 

"Oh yes, they have sidewalks up there. You'll see them when the snow goes 
away." 

"I don't know . . . we'll see when the snow goes away." 

"You'll see," Ford replied, "there are plenty of sidewalks there and 
dandelions. You will be able to put flowers in and showthemhowto do it." 

On his way out, she heard Ford tell her husband, "I knew she would come 
out all right. You can be proud. You've got a good wife. She is a good 
housekeeper and a good mother. Take care of her." 

Constance recovered her health and returned to Iron Mountain, where she 
took Ford's advice. She planted flowers that spring, and sure enough, she said, 
"the idea must have taken hold on the rest of the town because the next year 
everyone got to work planting flowers and bushes. You would be surprised at 
what a difference it made." Ford, when he visited, "was quite pleased with the 
looks of the places on this visit," said Mrs. Perini. "He said so to several 
people."- 

Here then, summed up, is Ford's civilizing injunction, issued in his home 
state years before he made his move into the Amazon: Go forth and plant 
flowers. 

FOR HENRYFORD, gardening captured his vision of holistic Emersonian 
self-sufficiency, in which aesthetics and economics, nature and mechanics 
worked as one. At his Fair Lane estate in Dearborn, his wife, Clara, presided 
over twenty gardeners, three greenhouses, a sprawling general garden, a ten- 
thousand-plant rose garden, and the restoration, under the guidance of the 



naturalist John Burroughs, of a great portion of their land to its forested state. 
Ford also promoted gardening as an integral part of the curriculum of the many 
schools he supported in the United States, including those in Greenfield Milage 
and his village industries. He gave his Upper Peninsula lumberjacks, jobbers, 
sawyers, and other mill workers plots of land to grow vegetables for their own 
use. In Dearborn, starting in 1918, the company began to make 35-by-60-foot 
plots available to employees on Ford property and encouraged homeowning 
workers to keep flower and vegetable gardens in their yards. Colored posters 
appeared around the Highland Park and Rouge plants letting workers know 
about Ford's Garden Education Service. A "company -gardener" was "on hand 
during all daylight hours to answer all questions'" on how best to lay out plots, 
when to plant, and how to prepare and fertilize the soil. Workers paid a dollar for 
these services, which included the provision of seeds. The fee was "totally 
inadequate to cover the cost," noted an internal memo, but "sufficient to give 
each participant a 'stake'' in the project." Through the Great Depression of the 
1930s, Ford pushed gardening as an alternative to government relief. And by 
the end of the decade, some fifty-five thousand of his employees kept home 
gardens and another three thousand workers maintained garden plots on Ford- 
allotted land.- 

And so in Fordlandia, as part of the post-riot rebuilding program, both 
Henry and Clara Ford became personally involved in promoting gardening, 
saying that it was their "expressed wish that the planting of flowers and 
vegetables be incorporated into the estate's school curriculum and encouraged 
among its workers." Roy McClure, chief of surgery at Detroit's Henry Ford 
Hospital, wrote to Archie Johnston that "Mr. Ford expressed considerable 
interest in the schools and in the hope that the medical program and perhaps 
gardening projects might be started as they have been at Dearborn, Georgia, 
Northern Michigan, as well as Wayside hin."- 

As with housing, Archie Johnston did what he could to comply. But here, 
too, he found the gap wide between Dearborn principles and Tapajos practice. 
"We are aware that Mr. Ford wants every home to have a small plot of ground in 
connection with same," Johnston wrote Carnegie in Dearborn, "but we wonder 
if the picture of Boa Yista has been properly presented to him." He pointed out 
that because the Brazilian settlement was nestled tight between the river and a 
hilL to give each house the 12,000 square feet of land Ford suggested would 
stretch out the population center. "One might say, what does that matter, but let 
us consider the costs, this means miles and miles of water mains, electric poles, 



wire, sewers, time lost in maintenance. 1 ' 

Johnston fudged when it came to spacing the houses. He bunched them up 
closer than Ford demanded. As to gardening, he told Dearborn that "we will do 
the best we can." But it was the dry season and there was much work to be 
done and ground to be cleared. Workers had made considerable headway 
during the 1930 rainy season, with the seed supply secured by Rogge on his 
trip up the Tapajos . And a good deal of forest had been cleared in the dry 
months leading to the December riot, with much of it planted by the skeleton 
crew kept on after the clash. Yet Johnston felt that too much time had been 
wasted in the months after the uprising, and he wanted to focus his energies on 
what he felt he had been put in charge to do, grow rubber. He was learning 
quickly that he had to spend a lot of resources dealing with the insects that 
attacked the maturing rubber trees, and he didn't want to expend any more of 
them trying to fend off the creatures that fed on fruit and vegetables. "Bugs," 
Johnston wrote, "both crawling and flying, are a great handicap." hi addition, it 
wasn't easy to acquire the seeds for the kind of horticulture Henry and Clara 
suggested.- 

He did try. Every new house was given a quarter acre of land to plant, and 
households were provided seeds and seedlings. Many of Fordlandia's workers 
had experience in maintaining mgas, small jungle clearings where they grew 
vegetables, tubers, beans, fruits, and herbs. Others had fanned on the 
seasonally enriched floodplains.-And well before Ford started promoting 
gardening in the Amazon, many of Fordlandia's workers who lived in Pau 
d'Agua and other villages had raised pigs and chickens and kept vegetable and 
manioc plots. This ended up being a problem for the plantation, since too much 
access to land made Ford employees less dependent on Fordlandia's wages, 
restaurants, and commissaries. It also contributed to a high turnover rate among 
workers , as many would just quit and go back to their home communities to 
plant or to fish.- As in Michigan, Ford preached decentralization, and he hoped 
his garden program in Fordlandia would encourage a "sense of propriety and 
personal pride" — yet not so much pride that his workers would be able to 
forsake a cash salary altogether. So even as Johnston was encouraging 
residents to plant flowers and vegetables he was ordering families to dismantle 
their corrals — as his counterparts in the Upper Peninsula had done a decade 
earlier in Pequaming — thus prohibiting them from keeping livestock in their 
yards. Gardening, he said, should be geared to the "improvement of the street in 
general instead of small individual squares."- 



Eventually, the plantation established a garden club and posted notices 
around town, translated into Portuguese: 

Many persons here have expressed their wish that there be a 
concerted effort to beautify our streets and houses. It seems that this 
wish is shared, more or less, by every family and every person on the 
plantation, but up until now this wish has not been publicly shown and 
therefore has not been generally recognized. The cultivation of gardens 
contributes greatly to the general well-being of any community and is a 
source of pleasure to the owner as well as an improvement to the 
neighborhood. . . . With these thoughts in mind there has been 
inaugurated a Garden Club to which any family and any individual may 
join. 

This announcement was followed by the "Best Home Garden'" contest. The 
first-place prize would be twenty-five dollars, with the highest score given to 
the garden that was "attractive as well as practical, that is, it should have a 
combination of vegetables and flowers ."- 

JOHNSTON DIDN'T REALLY believe gardening would achieve self- 
sufficiency or even contribute to the moral improvement of character. He did 
think, though, that it could occupy children and stop them "from being 
destructive with trees already planted" — after school, they had a habit of 
trampling through just-planted fields and nurseries, and a gardening club, 
Johnston hoped, might otherwise absorb their energies through the aftemoon.- 

Howto keep people busy — Americans so they didn't feel like "prisoners," 
Brazilians so they wouldn't decamp out of boredomor, worse, revolt — had 
become a major worry ofFordlandia's managers. It was a concern before the 
1930 uprising. Right after the first food strike in 1928, Oxholmpurchased six 
soccer balls, hoping that the sport would allow his men to blow off steam And 
following every subsequent labor conflict, some Ford official would come up 
with a new remedial amusement. But after the 1930 riot, with the razing of the 
bordellos, bars, and casinos that had entertained workers during their off-hours, 
the provision of recreation became a more pressing issue for plantation officials, 
hi their report back to Dearborn, Perini and Carnegie suggested setting up a 
"soft drinks and ice cream shop" and a "bandstand," so that the "natives would 
soon organize a band among themselves."— 

As to the Americans, the company worried that they "have practically no 
diversion, and get extremely tired of seeing the same faces at all times and 
places." Dearborn urged its plantation staff to take vacations, to visit Belemor 



Manaus. Roy McClure, head of Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital, wrote a note to 
Edsel suggesting that Fordlandia residents take a railroad trip through the 
jungle on the near defunct Madeira line "or wherever they wish to go in order to 
clear their minds of petty grievances which arise in some people who get to 
feeling they are prisoners.'"— Workers built playgrounds for children and a 
tennis court for adults, and Carnegie and Perini thought that if enough road was 
rolled — by 1934 there were close to thirty miles of paved and dirt thoroughfares 
— then "an automobile trip," in Ford "station wagons," of "several miles will 
also be possible."- 




New mads to mam: A Lincoln Zephyr stuck in Fordlandia mud. 
Back in the United States, golf had grown in popularity in the years after 
World War I, and like many other corporate managers Ford Motor Company 
officials, including Reeves Blakeley, who while in Belem negotiating the tenns of 
the Tapajos concession could often be found shooting holes on a jungle range 
outside the city limits, had become avid players. And the Dearborn 
Independent, reflecting Ford's growing cultural conservatism, particularly his 
distrust of large, easily manipulated urban crowds, promoted golf as a 



substitute for baseball. Ford's paper criticized America's pastime for 
concentrating "ten thousand people" in one place while giving themlittle to do 
other than to sit in "cramped-up positions watching nine men handling a bat 

and a ball A large portion of our so-called sportsmen are mere shouters and 

noise makers, and have no more claim to be regarded as exponents of any 
particular game than the Roman mob which attended the gladiatorial contests in 
the arena." Golf, in contrast, got "people out of the crowded city to the pure air 
ofthe seaside orthe country." It encouraged spectators to become participants 
themselves, not as part of a "team" but as individuals. The paper urged 
municipalities throughout the country to build golf courses as a way of 
promoting civic virtue, since a "community playing golf in its leisure moments 
should have no time for less edifying pursuits." Golf develops "foresight and 
pere everance," as the "golfer never looks backward; 'Fore' is his slogan, and 
his aim is to drive his ball clear of all traps and pitfalls." And so Ford workers on 
the Tapajos moved forward, laying out a nine-hole course adjacent to the 
American compound and the "nature park." Archie Weeks 's daughter, Leonor, 
dubbed the links the "Winding Brook Go If Course," since it ran along an igarap 
1 1 

e, or stream— 




"The golfer never loolzs backward": Fordlandkt s Wilding Biook Golf Course . 



Hunting was another sport that the Michigonians brought with them to the 
Amazon. In the forest they shot jaguars, panthers, and large snakes. The staff 



was allowed the "occasional use without charge of company boats," and men 
went out on the river on shooting expeditions. Opening fire into large 
congregations of caimans provided a way more to vent frustration than to test 
hunting prowess, though it took more skill to kill manatees and botos, the river 
dolphins that Brazilians affectionately and mischievously blamed for otherwise 
unexplainable pregnancies. The Americans were also encouraged to go on 
boating trips, yet the Tapajos was treacherous. Violent stonns could be 
conjured out of a blue day, with afternoon wind heading up the valley crossing 
with the downstream current to create more than a meter-high chop. Santarem's 
Catholic cathedral is adorned with a gilded life-size iron Christ on a cross made 
of local itauba wood, a gift from the Bavarian naturalist Karl Friedrich Philipp 
von Martius for his having narrowly survived a fierce storm just off the shores 
ofthe town in 1819. The inscription thanks "divine pity" for saving him from the 
"fury ofthe Amazonian waves." Floating islands, as big as twenty acres wide 
and ten feet deep, posed another threat, able to encircle a craft and paralyze its 
propeller with their underwater vines. Swimming in the river was likewise 
dangerous, filled as it was with "alligators, piranhas, electric eels, sting rays, 
and large water snakes, sometimes as long as 30 feet." So once the houses 
Johnston had built, complete with indoor bathrooms and showers, were ready 
for occupancy, and two swimming pools, one for common laborers, the other for 
skilled workers and staff, were excavated, the company discouraged river 
bathing.— 




. . - 

Ford tugboat trapped in a river-grass island. 

There was radio reception, of the kind that brought Rudy \allee to the 
Mulrooneys. The company made sure that the Ford Sunday Evening Hour, 
which broadcast wholesome American music as well as safely exotic fare, such 
as the Ford Hawaiians, reached the plantation. But reception was often ruined 
by static. And with "victorola records and books" slow to arrive, managers 
continued to sponsor cormunity-wide public activities, mostly on Saturday 
evenings and Sunday afternoons but also occasionally during the week. 
Brazilian workers participated in competitive sporting events, such as soccer, 
boxing, and foot races, which helped not only to keep them occupied but to 
entertain the Americans, particularly bored women. But all enjoyed the 
vaudeville show staged by the managers. One extravaganza was such a "big 
success," wrote Archie Johnston to Dearborn, that "everyone says it is the best 
ever here."— 

At the end of 1931, Johnston built an open-air dance hall where the 



plantation held, at Henry Ford's urging, traditionalAmerican dances. Back in 
Michigan around this time, Ford, as part of his broader antiquarianism, began to 
sponsor fiddling contests and sent agents to scour the nation to record the 
steps of traditional dances before they disappeared or were corrupted by the 
"sexdancing" that was sweeping America. He also established his own private 
record label, Early American Dances, and hosted balls in Dearborn and in his 
growing collection of inns, farmhouses, and village industries throughout the 
country. Employees understood invitations as "thinly disguised commands ,, to 
attend, and they did their best to maneuver through waltzes, polkas, minuets, 
square dances, as well as the quadrille and the ripple. All guests — even Harry 
Bennett, who liked to wear bow ties so that in a fistfight his opponent couldn't 
get a hold on him — were expected to follow proper decorum men, not women, 
were to initiate the dance and there was to be no cutting in and no crossing the 
middle of the dance floor. Benjamin Lovett, the instructor Ford contracted to 
organize these balls, wrote in his Good Morning: After a Sleep of Twenty-Five 
Years, Old-Fashioned Dancing Is Being Revived by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford, 
published in 1926, that protocol dictated that the man was to guide the woman 
without embracing. There would be no bodily contact except for the thumb and 
forefinger, which were to touch the woman's waist as if "holding a pencil." 
Boxes of the book were shipped up to Ford's towns in the Upper Peninsula, to 
Alberta, Pequaming, and other villages, where for a time the local schoolchildren 
took daily dance classes.— 

hi his encomium to Ford's music patronage, Lovett linked specific dances to 
"the racial characteristics of the people who dance them" Modem American 
dancing, with its flappers moving to the fox-trot, shimmy, rag, Charleston, and 
black bottom, not to mention the obscenely sensuous tango, had been sullied 
by influences "that originated in the African Congo, dances from the gypsies of 
the South American pampas , and dances from the hot-blooded races of 
Southern Europe." But Ford was rescuing a truer tradition of dance that "best 
fits with the American temperament, ... a revival of the type of dancing which 
has survived longer among the Northern peoples." Ford himself traced the rot 
not to Africa, Argentina, or Italy but to Jews . The Independent, during its run of 
anti-Semitic articles, complained that the "mush, the slush, the sly suggestion, 
the abandoned sensuousness of sliding notes are of Jewish origins."— 

Ford's dance revival clearly reflected his conservative turn. As the historian 
Steven Watts writes, the industrialist "deployed swirling, waltzing couples and 
stamping square dancers as skirmish lines in a larger cultural campaign to 



reclaim and defend American values and practices from an earlier day." 
Fordlandia allowed Ford to go on the offensive, to advance his campaign into 
the Amazon and reclaim its inhabitants, some ofthemalready under the sway of 
dances like the Charleston, for a more virtuous sociability. In the rain forest. 
Ford made his counterthmst against JazzAge culture not only with dance but 
also with verse. The man many the world over blamed for "trampling down 
individuality, beauty, and serenity, and erecting machine altars to Mammon and 
Moloch" sponsored in Fordlandia readings in Portuguese translation of 
Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and, ironically, William Wordsworth, 
the poet who declaimed against the mechanical "fever of the world" leading a 
"rash assault" on English greenery.— 

IN ADDITION TO buying soccer balls to keep workers busy, Captain 
Oxholmalso asked Charles Sorensen to send hima "moving picture outfit." 
Sorensen did, and Fordlandia began to screen films. But the projectorthe Rouge 
sent down was outdated and the movies available fromBelem's distributor were 
old, "terribly scratched, warped and dried out." And workers complained of 
boredom if the same picture was screened too many times. When Johnston took 
over management, he secured a better sound projector, which allowed him to 
feature more up-to-date films. He found a Fox agent in Recife who could supply 
the plantation with B action pictures, the "type that is best liked down there," 
said Johnston. Rio's movie industry was just getting started in the 1930s, and 
Johnston tried to show Brazilian films whenever he could, es pecially the popular 
chanchadas, slapstick musicals, including a few starring a young Cannen 
Miranda. "We intend putting on a good show for our workers," Johnston said. 
It's unknown if he ever had the opportunity to screen Law of the Tropics , a 
Warner Bros . picture partly based on a 1936 Collier s Weekly article on 
Fordlandia. The film, released in 1941, was a bust in the United States, panned 
by the New York Times for unrealistically depicting a "verdant" jungle where 
"mosquitoes never bother any one."— 




Fordlandia dance hall, with movie screen on back wall. 




"Mi intend putting on a good show": John Rogge, second fiom left, Curtis Pringle in the 
middle, and James Kenned}- with camera, filming scenes of family life. 

Fordlandia also put on a good show for Dearborn. By the 1930s, Henry Ford 
had embraced celluloid as a way to link together his far-flung empire. Film crews 
would document his camping trips with Thomas Edison, Herbert Hoover, and 
John Burroughs; aerial shots of Mexico; scenes of street life in Bridgetown, 
Barbados; Diego Rivera painting the Detroit Institute of Arts; surgeries in the 
Henry Ford Hospital; Ford mines, mills, and dams; and each and every 
subassembly process that went into making a Ford car. Fordlandia, too, was 
filmed, as a decision was made early to "build up a complete history of our 
development in detail," for "a ready reference to any given operation." Henry 
Ford specifically asked to see "action, pictures, etc. etc." of Fordlandia 's garden 
program- 
Johnston sent roll after roll of raw 16 mm footage to Dearborn, to be 
screened for officials, including Henry and Edsel, so they might get a sense of 
the plantation's progress and everyday life. These reels were largely made up of 
random, uncaptioned images: men sawing trees and clearing jungle, Americans 



shooting caimans and gutting manatees, chunks of meat dangled in the river to 
provoke a piranha frenzy, lingering head shots of workers, who seemed to have 
been chosen to illustrate the region's racial diversity, schoolchildren listening 
courteously to their teacher, and workers lining up to receive their paychecks, 
undergoing a medical examination, or playing soccer as women and children 
looked on. Many of these images were folded into in-house documentaries 
detailing different facets of Ford's vast holdings or into films focused on latex, 
such as Redeeming a Rubber Empire. In exchange, Dearborn sent news and 
documentary shorts down to Fordlandia, familiarizing Brazilian workers with 
other branches of the Ford family. New Roads to Roam and Streamlines Make 
Headlines introduced them to the Lincoln Zephyr, a luxury car made by a 
company Ford purchased in 1922, and let themknow they were living in a new, 
aerodynamic age. Making Wooden Wheels for Autos gave the estate's residents 
a picture of the Rouge's state-of-the-art machinery that made the spokes and 
rims that would soon be framing tires made from Fordlandia latex 

Dearborn also provided films capturing the age of discovery, which was 
largely made possible by the rapid advances in transportation technology. 
Fordlandia workers and managers watched Bottom of the World, about Admiral 
Richard E. Byrd's expedition to Antarctica, a "rare, unbelievable record of the 
strangest and queerest things on earth" in which "not a scene" was staged 
(Byrd, partly funded by Edsel, named a mountain range after his patron). Some 
Wild Appetites let them enjoy "monkeys, alligators, tortoises, otters, opossums 
disporting themselves at feeding time." And Hell Below Zero took them to 
centralAfrica on an expedition commissioned by the Milwaukee Museum in 
search of the legendary Mountains of the Moon, a snow-capped 16,000-foot- 
high range separating what is today Uganda and the Democratic Republic of 
Congo. Deep in the sweaty sea-levelAmazon, clackity film projectors beamed 
onto an outdoor screen the "fantastic sight of natives shivering before a 
camp fire on the mythical line of the Equator."— 

A whole set of films featured the heroismnot of explorers but of Ford's cars, 
which could put the most remote places within the imaginative reach of the 
common man. Increasingly after World War I, newspapers reported on global 
expeditions that tested the endurance of the Model T. How far into the Amazon 
could it penetrate, how far up Machu Picchu could it climb? Ford News, an in- 
house paper for company employees, regularly ran stories about the adventures 
of the T along the Inca Highway or into the Mayan jungle. If Ford's car could 
make it, then anyone could, and so the age of exploration gave way to the age 
of tourism In Fordlandia, in addition to documentaries about expeditions to the 



South Pole or up the Mountains of the Moon, the estate screened Ford- 
produced films such as Yellowstone National Park and Glacier International 
Park, promoting automobile leisure travel and introducing plantation workers to 
America's natural wonders, accessible as never before thanks to Ford. 

Most ofthe company's historic fihnstockis stored in the United States 
NationalArchives in Washington, D.C., and judging from the sharp 
juxtapositions of otherwise unrelated shots — footage detailing, say, the 
synchronous industrial choreography of the Rouge followed by a bucolic 
panorama of farm life, or scenes illustrating the glacial pace of rubber tapping 
preceding images of dizzying assembly lines and conveyor belts- — Ford officials 
and managers seemed to revel in contrasting the primitive with the modem, 
which highlighted their role in speeding up the world. In early 1928, for example, 
the Ford News ran a story reporting on a momentous event: the world's first in- 
flight movie. Outfitted with a projector and screen, a Ford TriMotor, the first 
mass-produced metal-clad airplane, took off fro ma Los Angeles airfield with 
curtains drawn as eight ''theatrical people" settled into comfortable wicker 
chairs. The movie selected for the occasion, Harold Lloyd's Speedy, was a sly 
choice. Unlike Charlie Chaplin's later Modern Times, which offered a dark 
critique of Depression-era industrial speedup, Lloyd's movie is a JazzAge 
celebration ofthe velocity of modem life. The plot ofthe film involves Lloyd's 
fighting not to save Manhattan's last horse-pulled tram but to make sure its 
owner gets a good price for selling his route to a motorized trolley monopoly. As 
the Ford TriMotor circled over Los Angeles, its passengers probably laughed at 
the opening scene of a tourist guide pointing out a "vehicle that has defied the 
rush of civilizashun — the last horse car in New York."— 

ON THE TAPAJOS, Johnston had finally succeeded in replicating a shiny 
American town, with neat houses, clean streets, shops, and a town square. It 
was, one traveler said, a "miniature but improved Dearborn Michigan in the 
tropical wilderness." He even managed to re-create some ofthe social 
conventions of Main Street America, at least as Ford imagined them, with 
weekly dances, movies, and other fonns ofrecreation, including golf courses, 
tennis courts, swimming pools, and gardening clubs. Fordlandia paid good 
wages, provided decent benefits, including health care, and tried to cultivate 
virtuous workers. Yet Johnston was still finding it hard to usher in Ford's vision 
of modem times. In Dearborn, Ford's famed paternalism was diluted by the 
diverse resources available to workers in an urban, industrializing society. But in 
the Amazon, running a remote plantation with impoverished labor in a hostile 



environment, Fordlandia 's managers found themselves presiding over an 
extreme version of cradle-to -grave capitalism — literally.— 

Hundreds of babies were bom each year in Fordlandia, creating a whole new 
set of problems for its managers. Amazon residents were used to giving birth at 
home under the care of a midwife. Ford doctors frowned on the practice, yet did 
not want to tie up hospital beds for obstetrics. So they didn't push the issue 
until a woman died in childbirth in late 1931. From then on, medical and 
sanitation squads added a new responsibility to their evergrowing list, as they 
checked women for pregnancy and made sure no illicit midwifery was taking 
place. 

Once bom, children needed care. Dr. McClure had hopes that Dearborn 
chemists would soon find a "satisfactory substitute for cow's milk with soy 
bean milk" that could be used to feed infants and toddlers. But until then, 
Fordlandia 's hospital distributed Borden's Klim, a powdered whole milk, to new 
mothers. The staff quickly learned that utensils had to be provided as welL 
since most workers didn't own dishes, or "even a spoon," to prepare the 
powdered milk, using instead their fingers to mix the powder in empty cans. 
Before long the plantation, on instructions from Eds el, had established a day- 
care center, named after Darcy \argas, President \argas's wife. Working mothers 
could leave their children in the care of company nurses, under the supervision 
of doctors who made daily visits. Johnston complained that the center "cost 
considerable money to operate." Children also needed to be educated, and 
before long the company was running seven schools in the Amazon, named 
after Ford's son and grandchildren, teaching home economics for girls and 
vocational training for boys, and gardening and ballroom dancing for all. 
"Shades of Tarzan!" ran the caption under a photograph of children in a 
company brochure celebrating the plantation. "You'd never guess these bright, 
happy healthy school children live in a jungle city that didn't even exist a few 
years ago! — 

Despite such cheery publicity, children on the Tapajos, including many who 
lived in Fordlandia, continued to suffer. Malnutrition remained one of the 
plantation's most obdurate problems. "The cemetery," McClure reported to 
Edsef "contains children's graves far in excess of adults." 

After the December riot, Dearborn attempted to hire more married than single 
men, with the idea that men with families would be less transient and more 
dutiful. But married men often trailed behind them not just a wife and a few 
children but an extended network of relatives, ever in danger of becoming 



wards of Ford's largesse. "These caboclos" wrote Johnston, "all seem to have 
a lot of hangers on." To discourage themfromcoming to Fordlandia, he 
suggested that they be provided with nothing "other than food." 

Johnston was finding it difficult to abide by his own judgment. He tried to 
cut off commissary credit to the wife of an injured worker laid up in the hospital, 
since she was using the food she purchased on the credit to feed her extended 
family of three cousins and three nieces and to prepare meals for sale to 
unmarried workers. But when Johnston went to speak with her, she pleaded 
hardship. "God only knows my worries," she told the engineer. The "poor 
woman is probably correct," Johnston admitted, fearing that if he cut her off her 
immediate family would go hungry. He relented. "It is hard to know where to 
stop," he said. "We take care of all cases which actually need help." 

Workers were still dying, leaving widows behind. "Widow Francisca 
Miranda" was an "old timer" who has "caused plenty of trouble" for the staff, 
insisting that she had the right to tap Fordlandia 's wild rubber trees. Johnston 
concluded it was probably "easier" just to give her some money. And there 
remained the issue of burials, which the company still paid for, though it did try 
to pass off responsibility for the cemetery to Santarem's Catholic bishop. But 
the bishop's priests were stretched thin throughout the Tapajos valley, and he 
was already annoyed that Fordlandia refused to place its schools under his 
authority or pay for the construction of a proper church. So he demurred, 
consenting only to have his clerics occasionally pass through the plantation to 
say mass and minister the sacraments. Without a resident priest, Fordlandia 
would have to continue to bury its own dead.— 

All these social problems, though, would pale beside the one looming just 
ahead with nature. 



CHAPTER 19 
ONLY GOD CAN CROW A TREE 

HENRYFORD ONCE CALCULATED, AS PART OF HIS QUEST TO 
REDUCE the complexities of the production process to their simplest 
components, that it took 7,882 distinct tasks to make a Ford car, and he divided 
the number by the physical and mental capabilities of his workforce. "Strong, 
able-bodied and practically physically perfect men'" were required for949jobs; 
670 could be done by "legless men," 2,637 by "one-legged men," 2 by "armless 
men," 715 by "one-amied men," and 10 by "blind men." The remainder required 
able-bodied workers, but of "ordinary physical and mental development.' - 

Yet the Amazon was a place where 7,882 organisms could be found on any 
given five square miles, the most diverse ecological system on the planet, one 
that did not move toward simplicity but stood at the height of complexity. One 
tree alone could serve as home to a dazzling variety of insects, along with an 
array of animals, orchids, epiphytes, and bromeliads. About 10 percent of the 
world's five to ten million species are found in the Amazon, and there are, as one 
observer puts it, more "species of lichens, liverworts, mosses, and algae 
growing on the upper surface of a single leaf of an Amazonian palm than there 
are on the entire continent of Antarctica." The region is home to 2,500 kinds of 
fish, about an equal number of birds, 50,000 plants, and an incalculable number 
of invertebrates. In 1913, it took one year to reduce the time needed to make a 
Model T from twelve hours and eight minutes to one hour and thirty-three 
minutes. Yet it is estimated that half of all the Amazon's species remain 
undiscovered, and after centuries of observation scientists are still not exactly 
sure why the Amazon — unlike other forests, where leaves turn brown during the 
dry season — grows green and lush when the rain stops or how this reversed 
pattern of photosynthesis contributes to the broader seasonal distribution of 
water throughout the region. The slightest intervention could produce changes 
beyond the ability of Ford's engineers to foresee, much less control: clearing 
the forest for rubber removed the leaf cover that sheltered the small creeks 
ainning to the river, with the added sunlight enriching the algae, which in turn 
increased the snail population. The snails were the vector for the small parasitic 
worm that causes schistosomiasis, a disease that affects human bladders and 
colons and didn't exist anywhere in the Brazilian Amazon until it appeared in 
Fordlandia.- 

The clash between Ford's industrial system and the Amazon's ecological 
one, Chaplinesque in its absurdity when it took place over logistics, labor, and 



politics, grew even sharper when it came to the nominal reason for Fordlandia's 
founding: to grow rubber. 

EVENAS ARCHIE Johnston struggled through 1931 and 1932 to comply 
with Dearborn's social planning directives, he never lost sight of why he was 
sent to the Amazon, and at the end of his first year at Fordlandia he wrote to 
Charles Sorensen about how to move forward. ''Everyone agrees that a great 
amount of work has been done at Boa \4sta, and a great deal of money has been 
spent," Johnston said, yet "very little has been done along the lines of what we 
came here to do, namely plant rubber.' 1 He lamented that, having planted 3,251 
acres after nearly four years of work, "we have merely scratched the surface. 
We have provided comforts for the sick, the staff, and the caboclo, but have 
done very little towards creating an early income for the Companhia Ford."- 

Johnston shared the belief of his predecessors — Blakeley, Oxholm, Perini, 
and Rogge — that the sale of milled wood could potentially cover the 
plantation's expenses until rubber was ready to be tapped. Not all of the trees 
logged could be used or sold. "We are aware that Mr. Ford dislikes very much 
to bum down timber," he told Sorensen, "but it has to be done." Felled trees 
either too soft or too hard piled up, "rotting in the skid-way." Milled wood, 
unable to be shipped until the rainy season swelled the Tapajos enough to 
allow an oceangoing cargo ship to get to the plantation, warped in the humid 
climate, infested with tennites. Once again caught between the ideals of Ford 
and the reality oftheAmazon, Johnston pleaded for practicality: "We do not 
consider it wrong to bum this timber, simply because we cannot saw it. When 
we consider the whole question logically and seriously, it is just a question of 
whether we bum good American dollars (gasoline to get the timber) or bum the 
lumber." 

Johnston believed that if proper drying and storage facilities were built there 
were enough viable trees on the plantation to export three million board feet of 
milled, kilned hardwood a year. "We think the United States will be a splendid 
market," he said. "We have lumber that will delight the eye of the American 
architects." And to demonstrate, Johnston sent Ford and Sorensen that carved 
"little nigger boy" made out of Tapajos trees. 

Johnston proposed a program of rapid expansion: he planned to run logging 
roads through 200,000 acres of the Ford concession, felling as many trees as the 
mill could cut and the market would bear. As the jungle gave way to machetes, 
broad axes, and cross saws, his men would bum the underbrush and prepare 
the ground to plant rubber. It would be only a few years, Johnston thought, 
before he had 100,000 acres planted with over 10,000,000 trees, producing 54,000 



tons of rubber a year. That is, he hedged, "if all the trees were 100%." 

Sorensen responded quickly to Johnston's letter, impressed with its 
determination and clarity. As to his planned "clearing of large areas and burning 
of same," the head of the Rouge wrote, "you have outlined this in a manner that 
we all understand, and everybody here is in accord with your program' - 

Success seemed in reach. After the initial troubles adapting Michigan 
sawing techniques to Amazonian wood, Mulrooney, Rogge, and Fordlandia's 
other Upper Peninsula lumbermen had finally managed to get the sawmill and 
kiln to produce enough timber for the plantation's basic needs. And though the 
mill would have to be refitted to produce lumber for export, Johnston was 
confident that all obstacles could be surmounted. "The lumber is there," he told 
Sorensen, and "we know that the Ford organization can order any equipment 
and do anything within the power of man." Though he did concede that "only 
God can grow a tree."- 

But it was the Great Depression, and Dearborn was having trouble selling 
cars, much less exotic veneers. The company tried to find mills and furniture 
manufacturers in Michigan, North Carolina, and New England interested in 
Amazonian hardwood. Ford put out a glossy brochure highlighting the wide 
variety of wood and veneer available fromFordlandia's mill. Sucupira, with its 
"unusual blend of colors," resembled fumed oak. Massaranduba was an 
unusually strong wood, good for structural work on docks, railroads, and dance 
floors. Pau d'arco was attractively dark, while andiroba, a mahogany, would be 
perfect for radio cabinets and caskets. Spanish cedar lent itself to hand carving, 
as well as to cabinetry, and the mottled and striped muiracoatiara would nicely 
accent wall paneling where variation in color was desired.- 




Fordlandia s sawmill vvy/Zv lumber stacked and waiting to be shipped. 



There were few takers, however. "The banking system is still very mich of a 
muddled state" and the Rouge was running at reduced capacity, wrote the head 
of the Purchasing Department to explain why he hadn't been fully devoted to 
finding a market for his wood. By 1933, Dearborn worked the numbers and 
concluded that, assuming it found a market and assuming that the mill could 
produce four million board feet of lumber a year, it would still lose $12,000 a 
month .- 

RUBBER WAS AN even bigger problem From Fordlandia 's inception, it was 
assumed that the company that had perfected mass industrial production would 
grow plantation rubber. Observers of Ford noticed that he treated machines as 
"living things," so in the Amazon it was to be expected that his men would treat 
living things — rubber trees — -as machines. The model naturally was a Ford 
factory, either Highland Park or the Rouge, with its close-cropped rows of 
machinery, which cut down wasted movement, and its enormous windows and 
glass skylights, through which sun poured in, saving electricity by bathing the 
factory floor in cathedral-like radiance. 

"You know" Ford once said, "when you have lots of light, you can put the 



machines closer together."- 

Johnston strove to apply the same kind of regimentation to the plantation 
that Ford did to the factory, spacing the trees close together and insisting that 
with the right discipline two men could plant between 160 and 200 trees in eight 
hours, at 2Vi to 3 minutes per stump. But he soon admitted that he had trouble 
making the math work, as the pace of planting rubber was subject to more 
uncontrollable conditions— bad weather in particular — than was the tempo of 
an assembly line.- 

There is a reason rubber in the Amazon isn't planted close together but 
rather grows wild, scattered among other trees. Hevea is native to the Americas, 
which means that its natural predators, including its most deadly foe, South 
American leaf blight, are also native to the region. Thus rubber trees in the 
Amazon grow best when they are relatively far removed from each other, about 
two orthree to the acre, slowing the propagation and spread of fungi and bugs 
that feed off their leaves. In contrast, in Southeast Asia, free from the presence 
ofnative predators, they can be planted in tight, well-ordered rows, hundreds to 
the acre. In his drive to plant as much acreage as possible to meet the terms of 
the contract, Captain Oxholmdid space out the trees of Fordlandia's first 
planting somewhat farther than was the customin Southeast Asian plantations. 
But those trees came up sickly as a result of Blakeley 's scorched soil and 
Oxholm's reliance on hastily gathered seeds and seedlings of unproven quality, 
planted at the worst possible moment, when the air was dry and the heat high. 
"Stuck in the ground anyhow," most of Oxholm's frail, sun-baked plantings had 
to be plowed under.— 

This meant that when Johnston took over management of the estate, most 
of its trees were young, a little over a year old, having been planted in early 
1930, in the months after Rogge returned fromup the Tapajos. Some ofthe trees 
in this second planting showed signs of blight. As their crowns had yet to fonn 
a canopy, though, there was still space enough separating each tree to slow the 
spread of the contagion. But there were already other concerns. 

Despite the Amazon's relatively consistent dry and wet seasons, the specific 
ratio between sun and rain can change significantly fromone region to the next. 
Fordlandia's average rainfall, about eighty-seven inches per year, was well 
within rubber's tolerance. Yet within this average, there is considerable 
variation, hi 1929, 102.5 inches of rain fell in Fordlandia. The next year saw only 
70 inches . Such fluctuation is another reason in Brazil Hevea thrives in the wild 
but suffers in plantations: the dense, diverse root systems of jungle foliage 



guard against erosion during particularly wet seasons and regulate the 
distribution of water during dry ones. Fordlandia's hilly terrain was made up of 
flat-topped plateaus surrounded by steep declines leading to deep undulating 
hollows and ravines. It was fine for jungle rubber when it stood alongside other 
trees buffered in a dense forest. But stripped bare, it magnified the power of the 
rain and sun. Hilltop seedlings proved vulnerable to the strong Tapajos wind, 
and the sun beat down on the fields like rays through the glass planes of Ford's 
factories, scorching exposed leaves and desiccating the plateaus (1930 was an 
exceptionally dry year). Clear-cut and free ofroots, the inclines, with slopes 
thirty degrees or more, lost their topsoil to the eroding rains, exposing stony 
sterile soil, while the ravines flooded from poor drainage.— 

Johnston tried to compensate by terracing the slopes and planting cover 
crops, mostly calopogonium, both to hold the topsoil and add nutrients. But 
this was costly and ultimately wasted labor. Terracing added nearly an extra 
twenty-five dollars of expense per acre, and ground cover often dried out from 
too much sun and risked catching fire. 

In Fordlandia, then, managers were obsessed with the vagaries of Amazon 
weather, to a much greater degree than were the traders and merchants who 
profited fromwild rubber, tucked away as it was under jungle cover. During his 
near decade tenure, Johnston would issue a steady stream of weather reports to 
Dearborn: 

"The unusual dry weather continues . . ." 

'The unusual drought continues . . ." 

"Crop is very dry and dangerous from a fire point . . ." 

"The plantation is exceedingly dry, cover crop in many places burned brown 

"We have not had a drop of rain in 42 days . . ." 

"During this period we have had an unusual amount of rain . . ." 

"Everything is bone dry, there has been no rain for approximately 120 days 

"We had three small fires . . . but managed to get them out . . ." 

"The river draws rain clouds from the plantation . . ." 

"Due to more rain than usual for this season of the year, we have not made 
as good progress as we would have liked . . ."— 

INEARLY1932, after less than a year at Fordlandia, Johnston reassessed 
his options. His building program was progressing reasonably well. Yet the 
difficulties involved in both rubber growing and managing labor relations led 



him to revise his original proposal to Sorensen. 

He now suggested that, in place of rapid expansion at Fordlandia, all major 
planting operations be moved about fifty miles upriver, to a flatter location that 
he, John Rogge, and Curtis Pringle had scouted out. Johnston recommended 
planting only on level land that didn't need terracing and leaving the hills, 
streams, and ravines wild to absorb the rainfall. The location Johnston and his 
men surveyed offered longer stretches of unbroken plateau than did Fordlandia, 
with its "terrible contours" that made the grading and paving of roads costly 
and prohibited the extension of the railroad, which had stalled at a few miles. It 
would be easy, said Johnston, to build bridges over the igarapes, or streams, 
the valleys of which would be left wooded as sources of firewood.— 

Johnston was searching not only for flatter land but for a way to lessen the 
social burden on the company. Since the proposed site was close to an already 
established town, Itaituba, all the company had to do was build a small clinic, 
warehouse, office, and radio station. His idea was to outsource the clearing of 
the jungle to a local contractor, with Ford's medical department supervising the 
housing and sanitary conditions at the work site. Johnston could arrange for a 
"first class hardware store" froniBelemto provide cutlasses, axes, saws, files, 
and grinding stones, so that Ford would not have to supply the "wants of any 
contractor." 

"This means," Johnston said, that the company would be relieved of the 
responsibility of caring for its workers, for once the land was cleared the 
"contractor would bum down his palm huts, fill in the toilets, and leave us a 
cleared area." All that would be needed was a few hundred hired men to 
maintain the plantation, who while at work would be "subject to our policy in 
every way." Yet they would reside in Itaituba and "be allowed to live in the 
Brazilian style while not at work." Johnston concluded his case to Sorensen by 
saying that his job would be to "look after the health of our men, see that we 
get eight hours work each day and let someone else look after their minor needs. 

Sorensen, perhaps after consulting with one of the Fords, would have none 
of it. He curtly dismissed Johnston's proposal, writing in its margin: "I don't 
want to see this done."— 

Johnston had no choice but to try to make Fordlandia work. But he did 
finally askforhelp. Fornearly five years — from early 1928 through 1932 
— despite the occasional employ of Tapajos rubber men, Fordlandia had 
proceeded without expert counsel. Evidence suggests that its managers 



spumed the use of mateiros — native naturalists who possessed invaluable 
knowledge about the jungle- Johnston himself was a structural engineer and 
knew nothing of the land. But as a Ford man, he represented a company that 
prided itself on having revolutionized industrial production through hands-on 
experience. He was a quick study, fast accumulating a store of rubber 
knowledge. And he was practical, constantly trying to deflate Henry Ford's 
"utopian ideas" by reminding himofthe reality on the ground. Yet he also 
suffered from the occupational hazard common to Ford men, a kind of crackpot 
realismwhere decisions supposedly justified by observation were really shaped 
by a sense of infallibility bom of success, a belief that the company could, as 
Johnston put it, "do anything within the power of man." 

Charles Lindbergh, Ford's friend, described his experience working for the 
Ford Motor Company's aviation division thus: "Once they get an idea, they 
want to start in right now and get action tomorrow, if not today. Their policy is 
to act first and plan afterward, usually overlooking completely essential details. 
Result: a tremendous increase of cost and effort unnecessarily." And indeed 
Sorensen once told Lindbergh, "Don't forget, when you want to do something, 
the most important thing is to get it started." Don't let the experts, the head of 
production at the Rouge advised, "keep it on the drafting board; they'll keep on 
drawing lines as long as you'll let 'em"— 

It was this "edict engineering," as one frustrated manager described Ford's 
development policy at the Rouge, that explains why it took four years for 
someone in Dearborn to raise a question that should have been asked in 1928. 
Was it "fail - to assume," Ford's accountant W. E. Carnegie asked Archie 
Johnston in 1932, "that seeds which grew up in a forest will do as well when 
planted in a totally denuded area under a hot tropical sun?"— 

It also explains Johnston's answer. Starting with "yes" and then working 
backward from there, here's how Sorensen 's protege justified his reasoning: 

1) When the seeds of the rubber trees that now exist in the 
jungle were washed down in the flood era, there was probably no 
jungle and the rubber plants were probably subject to the same 
exposure as all other trees. 

2) Rubber trees never spring up in the jungle from seeds 
dropping from the rubber trees, as it is too shaded. 

3) We planted several hundred thousand seeds in the shade 
four years ago and last year when Mr. Rogge went there to collect 
them he found that they were in most cases a sickly bunch of 



stumps. 

4) Rubber, we are informed, is planted successfully in the East 
under the same conditions as ours. 

"■All of the above deductions are by questioning people and observations," 
wrote Johnston. Therefore, in response to Carnegie's question, he had "every 
reason to believe yes."— 

Reasoning by observation was in fact central to the way the Ford Motor 
Company, and Henry Ford himself, operated. "Learning by doing" was the core 
of the pedagogy Ford promoted in the numerous schools he patronized in the 
United States, and it accounted for the success of the scientific "everts" he 
trusted and admired, men like Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, and 
Luther Burbank. 

As his company evolved and grew, however, exhortations to use "common 
sense" to achieve success became less instructive than inspirational As Albert 
Wibel, head of Ford's purchasing department, told Johnston, "you are going 
about this new work with a good common sense idea of the difficulties you 
have to overcome. About the finest asset one can have when in charge of a job 
such as you have at the rubber plantation is good horse-sense and sound 
judgment. The ability to be careful and think things over quietly before going 
off half-cocked, to my mind, is a wonderful characteristic for an executive to 
have."^ 

Henry Ford himself was often invoked in letters between Dearborn and 
Fordlandia, his oracular pronouncements used not just for public consumption 
but to encourage intracompany striving. Concerned about cost overrides and 
the slow pace of progress, Wibel wrote to Johnston on another occasion to say 
that he was glad that finally "things seem to be shaping themselves very much 
for us instead of the other way." But, the head of purchasing went on, Dearborn 
was hard-pressed to understand why the "venture is costing us such a 
tremendous amount of money, with no return whatever for a great number of 
years." Still, Wibel assured Johnston, the general consensus was that he was 
doing very well: "Mr. Ford states that we only need to do what is right, and the 
rest ofthe situation will take care of itself."— 

Or again: "Mr. Ford is optimistic as to the future, and feels that it is only a 
matter of time until business conditions will be nonnalized. He tells us that what 
we are going through is for the good of all parties concerned." 

Johnston soon came to believe he needed something more than 
reassurance. This led him to do what Ford men were loath to do: request the 



help of an expert. "We are entering a gigantic proposition," he wrote Sorensen, 
and "we feel that it would be well to have the opinion of the highest expert on 
rubber planting." 

He soon came to rue this moment of weakness. 



-Mateims were often Portuguese-speaking, either married to Indians or 
raised in native communities; to this day, they serve as guides to outsiders, 
imparting otherwise inaccessible indigenous knowledge to those hoping to 
unlock the secrets of the forest either for science or for commerce (Susanna B. 
Hecht, "Last Unfinished Page of Genesis: Euclides da Cunha and the Amazon," 
Historical Geography 2:43-69, esp. p. 56; David Campbell, Land of Ghosts: The 
Braided Lives of People and the Forest in Far Western Amazonia, New York: 
Houghton Mifflin, 2005, p. 109). 



CHAPTER 20 

STANDARD PRACTICES 

THE PLANT PATHOLOGIST JAMES R. WETR WAS IN SUMATRA 
DIRECTing research at a Goodyear Tire Company plantation when he was 
recruited by Edsel Ford. Previously Weir had worked with the Department of 
Agriculture's Bureau of Plant Industry, studying fungi on trees in the western 
United States, as well as on sugar cane in Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican 
Republic. Bearded, tall, and, in the opinion of one American diplomat, conceited 
and cranky, Weir knew the Amazon well, having been part of the same 
Department of Commerce rubber expedition that included commercial attache 
William Schurz and the botanist Carl LaRue. Fromresearch he did on that trip, 
Weir had published a pamphlet that became the authoritative reference on 
South American leaf blight, known in Brazil as mal-das-fblhas and in the 
technical journals as Dothidella ulei or Microcyclus ulei. 

Weir arrived at Fordlandia in March 1933 and quickly impressed Johnston 
with what appeared to be a sound assessment of the plantation's problems and 
an aggressive proposal for expansion based on the modern techniques used on 
Southeast Asian plantations . He told Johnston that he had written a manual of 
standard practices for Goodyear and that one should be prepared for 
Fordlandia. "As rapidly as possible a series of Standard Practices on planting 
and general agriculture work is to be drawn up," Weir wrote in his preliminary 
report, advising that after they had been approved they should "become law." 
He counseled Johnston that "standard practices are as important in planting 
work as in the factory. They insure uniformity of result." 

"At least," Weir said with just a hint of hesitation, "as far as this work of 
planting can be uniform, "- 

PRIOR TO WEIR'S arrival, the Ford Motor Company, which in Michigan 
prided itself on state-of-the-art everything, was using planting techniques, as 
one employee put, "as antiquated as the Model T."~ 

AfterRogge's return fromhis upriver pursuit, Fordlandia managers used the 
seeds gathered by the Mundurucu in the second planting as well as to cultivate 
a "mother seed bed." Hevea was planted in a circumscribed area and the seeds 
thrown off fromthese "mother trees" were transferred to the plantation proper. 
This was a cumbersome, unpredictable system The bed was nearly ninety miles 



away, isolated from the main plantation and accessible only by boat up the 
Cupary River and then by mule. The conpany had to maintain a camp of men at 
the site, both to keep the undergrowth of the trees clear and to hunt the wild 
boars and other jungle animals that fed on the seeds. More critically, Johnston 
and his men could not know if the seeds used to plant the rrother bed would, in 
fact, produce trees that would yield high volumes of latexor would resist blight 
— the two characteristics that would make or break Fordlandia — until they 
matured considerably. There were too many variables at play: plantation 
workers believed that the seeds gathered by the Mundurucu at the headwaters 
of the Tapajos were generally better than those around Fordlandia. But the 
quality of any given seed was unknown. And even if a "mother tree" could be 
identified as a potential high yielder of latexor a strong resister of blight, that 
didn't mean that the seeds it threw off — products of pollination and thus 
composed of the genetic material of two trees — would likewise be so. Many 
trees grown fromseeds gathered fromFord's mother bed, as Weir warned in his 
report, might prove to be "duds." 

The alternative was asexual reproduction. As Johnston assured Dearborn, 
one could simply stick a mbber branch in the ground and it would "take root 
almost without fail."- That was one way of doing it. But Dutch botanists more 
than a decade earlier had pioneered the technique of bud grafting, which by the 
early 1930s had become the exclusive method in use on Southeast Asian rubber 
plantations. Bud grafting entailed taking a hearty rubber rootstock and grafting 
onto it a bud froma selected tree, or scion, with the desired properties — in this 
case high yield and strong resistance. The result is an amalgam, or clone, 
comprising two distinct genetic systems: sturdy roots and a resistant, high- 
yielding trunk. After the tissues of the two systems grafted and the bud 
produced a new shoot, the clone could be uprooted and planted as a whole tree 
or the grafted bud could be lopped off and the stump rooted. It was an efficient 
method of producing plantation stock because most mbber trees had a 
serviceable root system, and once a valued scion (high yielder, strong resister) 
was identified, it could provide multiple buds ready to be grafted. 

This kind of genetic work was but a step removed fromFordism's mapping 
of the social genome, the manipulation of individual movement into precise 
motions to achieve maximum productivity. And Dearborn would eventually 



embrace bud grafting with enthusiasm. Yet a few years prior to Johnston's and 
Weir's coming, when a company official wrote to Fordlandia to ask if anyone 
there had ever heard of the technique, Rogge, the lumberjack from Upper 
Michigan then in charge of the estate, wrote back saying that, while he knew of 
the method, he didn't "consider bud-grafting necessary."- 

In fact, Fordlandia 's managers knew embarras singly little about pollination, 
much less about asexual reproduction and bud grafting. In October 1932, the 
humorist Will Rogers, on a tour of Brazil and hearing that things were not going 
well for his friend Henry Ford, gave him a good-natured ribbing in the form of a 
letter to the New York Times: 
To the Editor: 

Para, Brazil, October 24, 1932. Brazil ought to belong to the United 
States. We like to brag about everything big. We been flying up its coast 
line for five solid days and still got another day. 

If any of you see the Rockefellers, kiss 'em for me. There is not a 
mosquito up this coast- If they can just hear of one trying to get a start 
down here there is ten Rockefeller Foundation men got himsinging the 
blues before sundown. No sir, you got to wait till you get to "God's 
country" to get eat up by insects. 

Rio Janeiro is the prettiest city in the world fromthe air. We are just 
circling Para where we land for the night. It 's right at the mouth of the 
great Amazon River. 

Up fromhere is where Mr. Ford's rubber plantation is but somebody 
sold him all male trees and they are having a little trouble getting 'emto 
bear. I bet they couldn't fool him on carburetors but he didn't know sex 
life in the forest, 
"tours, 
Will Rogers 

It was a joke: rubber trees did not reproduce by gender. The humor, though, 
was lost on Rogge, who sent a letter to the US Department of Agriculture 
asking if it was true that rubber trees were divided along male and female lines. 
"Rubber does not have male and female trees," someone fromthe department 
wrote back, before giving the lumberjack a fast lesson in insect cross- 
pollination.- 



So Johnston decided that with Weir's impending arrival he better study up. 
In Fordlandia 's office he came across a report on Southeast Asian rubber 
production detailing the technique of bud grafting (Dearborn had 
commissioned the study in 1928, though it seems that no one on the estate had 
bothered to consult it). As Johnston was reading, Curtis Pringle came into the 
office and mentioned that he knew how to do the procedure. Johnston was 
surprised to hear that an ex-sheriff fromKalamazoo had ever bud grafted, so he 
asked for a demonstration. Pringle proceeded to do exactly what the report "said 
must be avoided." Whittling the rootstock where the bud was to be attached, 
Pringle cut clear through the cambium, the thin layer of generative tissue found 
between the bark and the wood, responsible for the production of secondary 
shoots. Johnston told Dearborn that this might just have been carelessness on 
Pringle 's part but he was convinced more than ever that he needed an "expert's 
opinion and advice, on all our rubber operations and this as early as possible. "- 

"It might be in order," he s aid, "to have Mr. James Weir give our people a 
course of instruction. "- 

WEIR DID TEACH the staff how to bud graft properly. But the real problem, 
the pathologist said, was that Fordlandia had no sure scions from which to 
graft. So EdselFord agreed to Weir's request to travel to Southeast Asia, to 
Sumatra and Malaysia, to find trusted stock. Weir set out in June 1933 and 
quickly obtained 2,(M6 budded stumps grafted froman assured selection of 
high-yielding trees. Packed in sterilized sawdust, the cache left Singapore at the 
end of December, sailing across the Indian Ocean and through the Suez Canal in 
early 1934, then out into the Mediterranean, over the Atlantic, and up the 
Amazon.- 

These stumps were, as all Southeast Asian rubber was, the direct 
descendants of the seeds spirited out of the Amazon more than fifty years 
earlier by Harry Wickham Indeed, Weir, who didn't suffer froman excess of 
modesty, saw his mission as a bid to reverse history's course and restore Brazil 
to its former rubber glory. 

In his letters back to Fordlandia and Dearborn, posted fromdifferent ports 
of call, Weir made much of his adventure. He told of the "breakbone fever" he 
contracted in Kuala Lumpur and of smuggling some seeds out of Malaysia with 
false customs certificates. He reported on the increasing restrictions placed by 



the Dutch and British on rubber production, which he predicted would lead to a 
market shortage that could be filled by "tropicalAmerica," with its constant, 
steady supply of latex. He repeatedly forecast success not just for Fordlandia 
but for all of Brazil. "The chances," Weir wrote, "of making Brazil a very large 
factor in the rubber world are good." Within a year, he told Johnston, the bud 
grafting of just eighteen of his more than two thousand stunps would produce 
thousands of seedlings. A second round of bud grafting could, conservatively 
calculated, "breed up to 120,000 trees" more, which in a decade would yield 
3,600,000 pounds of latex. 2 

Johnston was encouraged not just by the infon-nation Weir sent him but 
because the pathologist, who seemed aloof at first, appeared to be loosening up 
a bit. Fromhis Singapore hotel Weir wrote Johnston a letter teasing him about 
his Scottish brogue and reporting that his "blood brothers" fromthe "Land of 
the Mountains and the Flood" were kicking up a racket on the floor below. "The 
clans," he wrote, his own blood up fromthe success of his mission, "are 
marching under the banners of their chiefs, the pipes are sounding their wild 
and thrilling music, the old war cries make the hotel tremble and their tartan in 
fancy is still steeped in the blood of the brave. \ive le Scott!" 

Then Weir did an inexplicable about-face. Prior to departing for Singapore, 
he had praised Johnston's management. "It is very gratifying to an 
agriculturalist," he said, "to see the amount of good work that has been done at 
Boa Msta." In time, he said, the plantation would no doubt be "a very great 
success," bringing "prestige for American business and for the name of the 
organization behind the project." He dismissed concerns that Fordlandia was 
too hilly, pointing out that numerous Southeast Asian plantations were just as 
rolling.JO 

But suddenly, upon his return toward the middle of 1934, he urged Eds el to 
"abandon" Fordlandia, insisting that it would never be profitable. He suggested 
that the company move operations seventy miles downriver, to Belterra, a flat 
150-foot-high plateau slightly drier than Boa Msta but with richer soil and better 
drainage. 

Weir's proposal caught Johnston off guard. Just two years earlier he himself 
had suggested moving operations upriver, yet by this point he had become 
invested in Fordlandia. His overhaul of the plantation was largely finished, and 



there now existed the orderly town that had long been imagined. He bristled at 
Weir's cavalier use of the word abandon to discuss Fordlandia's fate. "We do 
not think," Johnston wrote Dearborn, "that word should have been used and if 
you could see Fordlandia today you would see new shoots showing 
everywhere." 

But Weir insisted to Dearborn that he could make a go of things only at a 
new site, especially with the clones he obtained in Sumatra. Having spent six 
years and $7 million on an enterprise that no one would take off their hands, the 
Fords now decided to heed the advice of an expert, even if it meant starting 
anew, hi May 1934, their agents in Belem traded a little over 500,000 acres of 
Fordlandia — froma section that had yet to be fully explored — for an equal 
amount in Belterra. The rubber groves at Fordlandia were to be maintained as 
they were, with no further expansion, and the estate was to be used primarily as 
Weir's research station and "to produce budwood" for the new plantation, 
which the Fords apparently resisted calling Mselville, orEdselandia, as Jorge 
Mllares had originally proposed when he met with the two Fords in Dearborn. 
The new settlement kept its original Brazilian name, Belterra, which means 
beautiful land.— 

Johnston never forgave Weir his treachery, and for the remainder of Weir's 
four years with the Ford Motor Conpany, he issued a steady streamof criticism 
about him to Sorensen and to any other company official who would listen. 

Weir refused to admit his mistakes, even when they led to serious setbacks. 
When "mites and other bugs had almost taken control" of Fordlandia's 
budwood nursery in 1935, Weir recommended that they be repelled with 
"sulphur, tobacco smoke, and finally soap." But because the pathologist had 
mis identified the pests this treatment didn't work and that year's cultivation of 
"clones and budwood was shot."— 

Weir was expensive. "To date, with salary and expenses, trips, etc," 
Johnston wrote Dearborn, "we have paid out to Mr. Weir $70,000 and for this 
amount he has never assumed, or had to assume, any responsibility." Weir came 
and went as he pleased, accountable to no one, Johnston reported. That was 
why the plantation had had such poor luck with the Southeast Asian clones, 
half of which had died. "Mr. Weir was here when they arrived, and although 
planting is the most important function in plantation work, Mr. Weir did not 



actually see or take part in the planting of one stump." Johnston and a helper 
did the planting. "We did our best," he said, but admitted that "it might not 
have been good enough." 

Weir was haughty, and he couldn't get along with the rest of the staff. He 
clashed constantly with Johnston, but there was "one employee in particular" 
he really didn't like. That was Sheriff Curtis Pringle. Johnston had put Pringle in 
charge of the new plantation — the clearing of forest and construction of 
buildings having gotten underway in early 1935 — where he and Weir wrangled 
over every aspect of its development, from the location and size of the nursery 
to how much pruning should be done of existing wild rubber trees, from what 
kind of ground cover to use to whether it was better to transplant budded 
stunps fromthe nursery to the field (Weir's position) orto graft desired buds 
directly to roots tocks already in the field (Pringle's). 

Pringle, "like the rest of us, is by no means perfect," Johnston wrote to 
Dearborn, but if he "never took a cooperative attitude with Mr. Weir" it was 
because the pathologist "never took this attitude with Mr. Pringle; one cannot 
assume that all superior air and command either attention or respect." Johnson 
tried talking to Weir several times, telling him that his attitude was antagonizing 
the rest of the staff. But Weir shrugged it off. "At present," Johnston told 
Dearborn, Weir "can neither work in harmony with Pringle nor the writer."— 

Weir was a prima donna. Though he presumed to tell Pringle how to build 
Belterra, he refused to spend a night there because the site was still under 
construction and there was no "privacy" and "no good bathroom" Johnston 
tried to order Wei to move to the new plantation. But Weir said he wouldn't 
until a proper house was built for him. Until then, he insisted on staying at 
Fordlandia, where Johnston ordered him to bunk with other single men and 
work in the "engineering office." Weir balked, adamant on remaining in one of 
the well-equipped houses built for married American managers. Johnston 
unsuccessfully tried to get Dearborn to back him up, writing that if Weir was 
allowed to work fromhome there would be no way to make sure he wasn't 
slacking. "We cannot control a man if he is at home," he said, since "he might 
be in bed." 

Weir took credit for the accomplishments of others. "There is little or 
nothing in what he writes, nothing we do not already know, nothing we are not 



doing or intend on doing in the proper season," Johnston complained. 
"Everything he writes is meant to convey the idea to Dearborn that no one here 
knows anything about rubber. This condition does not exist, we know what we 
are doing." Weir even claimed to be the first to extract the poison rotenone, 
found in the roots of the timbo plant and used locally to kill piranhas, as an 
insecticide. "The timbo business is our idea," said Johnston, who claimed to 
have developed the pesticide himself— 

But Weir's worst vice, in Johnston's eyes, was that he valued theory over 
practice. Weir never stayed at Fordlandia for long periods of time, the manager 
said, always finding one reason or another to travel to Belemor Rio, or even 
back to the States. Therefore he hadn't actually observed the complete Tapajos 
annual planting cycle. That didn't stop him, Johnston said, frommaking 
sweeping generalizations about Fordlandia 's planting methods. Weir, he told 
Dearborn, "is not acquainted with the conditions here through an entire 
season," making him "scarcely qualified to talk on certain subjects." Johnston 
heaped particular scorn on Weir's planting instructions, which the company 
had adopted as "law" shortly after Edsel had hired him "He continually refers 
to his General Letters, and Standard Procedures, etc.," Johnston groused, 
accusing Weir of having imposed practices common on Southeast Asian 
plantations "before he had an opportunity to qualify as an expert about what 
should be Standard Practices in Brazil." 

To support his cause, Johnston enlisted the services of another expert, 
Walter Bangham A former colleague of Weir's who worked for Goodyear in 
Central America, Bangham supported Johnston's contention that they could 
make a go of rubber at Fordlandia. Johnston asked Bangham if Weir had indeed 
written Goodyear's "Standard Practices," as he claimed he had. "No, not one," 
replied Bangham Johnston's new ally reported that Weir, having taken the Ford 
job, wrote him several times asking to be sent copies of Goodyear's plantation 
handbook, which he then passed off to Dearborn as his own work. Bangham 
also confirmed Johnston's suspicion that Weir was treating the whole operation 
more as an opportunity to conduct experiments than as a practical business 
venture. Weir's "Standard Practices as written are not standard practices, but 
experimental practices," Banghamsaid, "and the way you have done things 
here is more practical than what is written."— 



"So it makes you wonder," complained Johnston to his Michigan superiors, 
"if Mr. Weir is sincere, does he know what he is talking about?"— 

WEIR, FOR HIS part, sent Dearborn a series of progressively gloomier 
reports, blaming the plantation's lackof success on a combination of pestilence 
and incompetence. In early 1936, he "threw quite a bomb," in his words, at 
Dearborn officials, recommending that Fordlandia be scaled back dramatically 
and that planting in Belterra be extended only gradually. Contradicting his own 
initial enthusiasm, Weir declared that "no rubber man would have gone to Brazil 
in the first place to build estates." Having already convinced the company to 
move the whole operation downriver to Belterra — at this point still under 
construction — the pathologist now recommended to Dearborn that it start over 
in Central America.— 

There may be some truth to Johnston's claim that Weil' was taking 
advantage of his employment with Ford to test pet theories. Not only had the 
pathologist managed to convince Dearborn to turn Fordlandia into his own 
personal research laboratory, Weir himself admitted in his original survey that 
Ford's operations presented a wonderful opportunity to research a question 
that had long preoccupied rubber specialists: Did the seeds gathered by Henry 
Wickham represent Amazon's best Hevea, or could a sturdier and more 
profitable variety be identified? He wrote: 

It is a common opinion among those, familiar with rubbers of the 
Amazon and the East, that certain very characteristic forms, known to 
exist in Brazil, are not found in the population of trees on eastern 
plantations. With the possession of the eastern, tested, material to serve 
as standards and comparison, Boa Msta would have an unusual 
opportunity to accomplish what every planting Company in the East has 
planned to do, viz: investigate genetically the wild rubbers of the 
Amazon River drainage. 

"Every effort," Weir said, "should be made to study the rubbers of the 
Amazon, for it is not unlikely, that some of the finest families of trees escaped 
the first collection of seeds that went to the East." 

By getting Edsel Ford to finance his trip to Sumatra, Weir did exactly that, 
securing representative samples of Southeast Asian Hevea to test against 
Brazilian varieties so as to identify blight-resistant strains that might not have 



been included in Wickham's original seed consignment. In retrospect, it is 
perplexing why Weir, one of the world's foremost experts on rubber blight, 
should have downplayed its danger as he did in his first positive report, the one 
where he praised all of Johnston's "good work" and predicted a "great 
success" for Fordlandia. In that document, Weir recommended not only that 
rubber planting be expanded but that the trees be placed closer together than 
they so far had been. Where Oxholmand his successors spaced themabout a 
hundred to an acre, Johnston, acting on Weir's advice, doubled up in 1934, 
planting two hundred to the acre. It could be the case that Weir was actually 
hoping for an epidemic of South American leaf blight as a way of isolating truly 
resistant stock, which he believed existed throughout the Amazon basin but had 
yet to be identified. Since blight is not a problemin Southeast Asia, none of the 
clones he brought back were specifically bred to withstand fungi; if they 
proved to be susceptible, while other, locally gathered seeds demonstrated 
resistance, it would confirm that there existed in the Amazon a wider variety of 
Hevea than that currently available to plantations in Asia. 

Weir, despite his work with Goodyear and other corporations, was at heart a 
government agronomist, with a long and active affiliation with the Department 
of Agriculture. Just as State Department diplomats tended to cultivate a broader, 
stable investment climate rather than advance the immediate interests of 
specific companies (as did Commerce Department attaches), Weir seemed 
concerned less with making Fordlandia, orBelterra, work than with figuring out 
how to grow plantation rubber in the Amazon, even if it meant that a company 
other than Ford's would benefit. 

So Johnston continued to fume. Weir, he said, has never been held 
accountable for his actions. Having left "others to cany on what he proposed," 
he "returns and criticizes what has been done." Johnston begged Dearborn to 
put Weir in charge of planting and insect control, letting himrun "matters to 
suit himself." This would at least make him responsible for results. Qve him a 
"definite job," he begged, "otherwise he will carry on as in the past."— 

Caught up in his feud with Weir and pressed into not just running one 
plantation but building a second, Johnston probably missed the irony of what 
by late 1935 had become his main line of criticismabout Weir, that the scientist 
had repeatedly advised the plantation to adopt methods not appropriate to the 



specific conditions of the Tapajos. "One does not have to be an expert," 
Johnston said, "to know that a standard practice in one country can be 
detrimental to good practice in another."— 

-The Rockefeller Foundation had launched a rmsquito-eradication program 
in Brazil a few years earlier. 



CHAPTER 21 
BONFIRE OF THE CATERPILLARS 

AS WEIR AND JOHNSTON BICKERED, THE FOLIAGE OF 
FORDLANDIAS maturing trees began to close, fonning a bridge over which 
South American leaf blight could march. Plantation managers had noticed the 
fungi, which feed off and spread among rubber leaves, from the moment the first 
trees began to bloom But the Tapajos's long dry season allowed workers to 
slow its spread through constant pruning and leaf washing. Then in 1935, the 
crowns of most ofFordlandia's trees began to touch one another, and what was 
troublesome turned catastrophic. 

The spores hit the older groves the hardest. "Practically all the branches of 
the trees throughout the estate," Weir wrote in a report to Dearborn, "terminate 
in naked stems. Each successive elongation of the shoot becomes smaller and 
smaller." The fungi don't kill trees straight out. But as they fight to refoliate, 
they grow successively weaker, either producing dwarf shoots or dying back 
altogether. Spores also attacked the estate's nurseries, including the new 
budwood bed. None of Weir's Dutch colonial clones, which held the hope of so 
many, proved resistant to the blight — -expectedly so since South American leaf 
blight doesn't exist in Southeast Asia and therefore planters there had no 
reason to select for resistance.- 




Fojdlandia rubber planting. 



Upon arriving at Fordlandia two years earlier, Weir had minimized the threat 
of bright and the valley's erratic rain distribution and urged Johnston to plant 
even closer rows. Yet he now declared unequivocally that the disease had 
assumed "epidemic proportions with every change of humidity." Fordlandia 's 
proximity to the Tapajos accelerated the disease, as the morning fog nurtured 
the fungi, which were now "spreading directly from tree to tree, without some 
intermittent controllable stage" and could not "be combated at Fordlandia 
successfully or economically." The Ford Motor Company, with the endorsement 
of a well-respected pathologist with experience on three continents, had in 
effect created an incubator. 

SOUTH AMERICAN LEAF blight was well known to tropical botanists and 
planters at the time of Fordlandia 's founding. By the early 1910s, pathologists 
had identified different manifestations of blight that had occurred throughout 
the Amazon basin as variations of a single disease. The blight is spread by 
airborne spores that move fromleafto leaf, entering their epidermis and 
reproducing between their cells. The fungi attack seedlings and mature trees 
alike, as well as a variety of latex-producing trees, not just Hevea brasiliensis. 
New leaves turn black and wither, while mature ones become pockmarked, with 



the infected tissue turning greenish black before rotting away completely. 

Hevea is what botanists call a climax plant, meaning that it developed in an 
ecosystem— in this case the Amazon — that was at the apexofits complexity. 
Unlike relatively new pioneer crops like wheat, com, or rice, which grow rapidly 
and throw off many fertile seeds and flourish in a variety of habitats, including 
large plantations, Hevea is not so adaptable. Its genetic composition is as old 
and evolved as the jungle that surrounds it. To use a metaphor associated with 
human behavior, Hevea is set in its ways. It grows slowly, its girth is thick, its 
seeds need coaxing, and it likes to hide from predators by mixing with other 
jungle trees. Yet despite these survival strategies, rubber, like many other 
tropical plants, can be a successful commercial crop when completely removed 
fromits home environment, freed fromthe pests and plagues that evolved and 
adapted with it. While Southeast Asia was similar enough in climate to the 
Amazon, its native insects, parasites, and spores ignored South American 
rubber and so trees could be planted in close rows. In their original context, on 
the other hand, rubber trees grown near one another proved susceptible to 
pestilence, as Weir put it, with "every change of humidity." 

South American leaf blight appeared in epidemic fonnin 1915 along the 
Caribbean coast, in Suriname, British Guyana, and the island of Trinidad, where 
planters first tried to grow estate rubber. In Suriname, it took just one year to 
decimate a two-year-old plantation of twenty thousand trees. Hevea can 
survive by shedding its leaves to shake off an infestation. But grouping trees in 
close-cropped rows made themvulnerable to not just one bout of blight but an 
endless barrage: even as an infected tree drops its leaves fromthe first assault, 
spores amassed on a neighboring tree attack again after a new bloom, then 
again and again. 

This is why by the late 1910s estate rubber production had largely been 
abandoned in the Americas— -until Henry Ford came along. 

Johnston tried to fumigate with antifungal pesticides, but Hevea grows tall, 
up to thirty meters in height, and requires special water-powered sprayers that, 
since rubber was not a plantation crop in the Amazon, Belem merchants didn't 
have in stock. Dearborn shipped some down, but the plantation's hilly terrain 
made their use a time-consuming, costly, and ultimately ineffective response. By 
mid-1936, Fordlandia stood patchy and ragged, just at the moment it should 
have begun producing latex for export. Weir condemned large swaths of the 
plantation and Johnston couldn't argue. 

The construction of Belterra was just about finished. Workers had built a 
city center and residential houses and cleared and planted thousands of acres 



with rubber. So a decision was finally made to switch the bulk of operations to 
the new site, with Fordlandia converted into a research center, bud-grafting 
school, and nursery for hybrid clones to be planted at the new estate. The train 
stopped running along Fordlandia 's three-mile stretch, as workers packed up 
the locomotive and cars and shipped them back to Detroit. A few staff families 
remained, rattling around the American neighborhood, as did a skeleton crew of 
Brazilian laborers . Some of them learned how to bud graft, while others kept up 
the nurseries, surviving rubber groves, and the Henry Ford Hospital, as well as 
theirown lawns, gardens, and sidewalks. 

"The growth of the rubber on Fordlandia is in striking contrast," Walter 
Banghamsaid after a visit in 1936, "to the excellent town site and industrial 
buildings that have been erected on the Fordlandia estate." But soon the town, 
too, began to take on a ghostly cast. A few years later, a visitor reported that the 
"jungle was beginning to creep back over it and blot out the signs and lines of a 
supercivilization which men had transported and transplanted at the cost of 
incredible effort, money, and human life."— 

WHEN HENRYFORD approved Weir's proposal to acquire Belterra, it 
provided an opportunity for Weir and Johnston to find at least a narrow slip of 
common ground, as both men thought a successful rubber plantation did not 
need a concentrated company town along the lines of Fordlandia. Johnston was 
tired of caring for workers and their families from cradle to grave, while Weir 
believed "decentralization of the field force . . . would save much time in going 
to and from distant parts of the estate." Rubber tapping had to begin at dawn, 
when sap flowed the freest. So Weir suggested that when the time came to tap 
latexat Belterra the company give plots of land to workers where they could 
build a house, close to a designated grove they would be responsible for 
maintaining and harvesting- — in other words, he proposed a labor systempretty 
much like what existed in the Tapajos before the establishment of Fordlandia. 

Ford disagreed, and once he authorized the swap of a piece of his original 
concession for land farther down the Tapajos, he sent instaictions to build a 
new town, centered on a city square, complete with a church, a recreation room, 
an outdoor movie theater, a golf course, a swimming poof a water tower, and 
even windmills to produce electricity. Ford had once told a village reporter, more 
than a decade earlier, when he was just getting started promoting decentralized 
"village industries," that he was strictly opposed to the idea of building "model 
towns" fromscratch. "I'm against that sort ofthing," he insisted, saying that he 
would instead locate his factories and mills in already established communities 
like Pequaming, which he purchased in 1923. But throughout the late 1920s and 



1930s, as his village industry projects became less a realistic remedy for the 
dislocations of boom-and-bust capitalismand more a symptomof his 
intensifying obsessions, he did exactly "that sort of thing" — in the Upper 
Peninsula with his logging camps, in Dearborn with Greenfield Village, and in 
the Amazon with Fordlandia. At nearly the precise moment he was telling 
Johnston to proceed with the building of Belterra, Ford, upon driving through 
an Upper Peninsula forest he found especially pretty, sent a work crew to dig a 
mill lake and raise a prim twelve-bungalow town surrounding a village green. 
Named by Ford after the daughter of the manager of his UP operations, Alberta 
became the newest addition to his village industry program, its workers 
expected to divide their time lumbering, milling, and farming.- 

Overthe next couple ofyears, Alberta and Belterra proceeded on similar 
lines, with the company promoting wholesome living in both, through 
gardening, education, health care, and recreation. Even the clapboard 
bungalows of the two towns looked alike. White with green trim, they were 
Cape Cod style, with steep roofs and front gables. Alberta, which today stands 
intact and is run by Michigan Technical University as a forest research station 
and tourist attraction, would prove to be marginally more successful than 
Belterra — it provided a steady, if inconsequential, amount of milled timber to be 
kilned in Iron Mountain. But it was ultimately as unsustainable as Ford's 
Amazonian venture. Over the next decade, company executives were forever 
trying to quietly close the money-draining town, only to be countermanded by 
Henry Ford himself. "Get it running by Monday," he told his Upper Peninsula 
manager on Thursday, upon learning that the mill had been shut down.- 

BACK IN BRAZIL at Belterra, hundreds of boys dressed in shorts, shirts, 
and caps and girls in white blouses and dark skirts began attending schools 
named after Henry's son and grandchildren: EdseL Henry II, and Benson. 
Belterra was indeed flat, which was good not just for planting rubber but for 
laying out level, symmetrical streets. Even more than Fordlandia, which made 
some concessions to the ups and downs, backs and foiths of river topography, 
Belterra looked like a squared midwestem town. Model Ts and As rolled down 
its straight streets, which were lined with fire hydrants, sidewalks, streetlamps, 
and white-and-green worker bungalows, with neat lawns and front gardens. 



Cape Cod traditional II: Belterra. 

A new hospital, dubbed the "Mayo Clinic of the Amazon," was even more 
modem than Fordlandia's Henry Ford Hospital, complete with X-ray machines 
and blood transfusion equipment. The hospital serviced the workforce and the 
surrounding area, which was more populated than Fordlandia; its staff received 
the latest medical journals with the mail, which anived daily from Santarem by 
horse — much quicker than the chuggingly slow riverboats needed to reach 
Fordlandia. Doctors performed more innovative operations than they did at 
Fordlandia, such as the removal of cataracts, an eye condition prevalent in the 
Amazon owing to the strong equatorial sun. Belterra medical personnel, 
chemists, and lab technicians made important advances in treating parasitical 
diseases and other infections that in later years would help other enterprises 
maintain a large force in the jungle. "In the interest of science," all of 
Fordlandia's Brazilian employees had to sign a waiver allowing the hospital to 
performautopsies if they passed away on the estate.- 

The sanitation squad continued to hunt wild dogs, drain swampy areas and 
cover them with oil so that mosquitoes couldn't breed, and inspect company 
houses to make sure kitchens and bathrooms were clean and laundry was hung 
to dry on lines. Still, Belterra represented a lessening of the feudal control that 
the company instituted, or at least tried to institute, at Fordlandia, more closely 



approximating modem labor relations based on wages and benefits- — of the kind 
often extolled by Ford even as he was undercutting them with his social 
engineering and paternalistic manipulation. The town was set backfromthe 
river a few miles , providing it with a natural buffer from the riverboat liquor 
trade; the company didn't have to enforce Prohibition as strictly as it did 
upriver, which helped reduce conflict. The settlement was within relatively easy 
reach of Santarem, so Belterra workers enjoyed some leverage in dealing with 
the company: at Fordlandia, accessible only by river, workers often felt trapped 
and utterly dependent on the plantation, especially after the razing of Pan 
d'Agua and other shantytowns did away with potential refuges for those who 
wanted to quit. At Belterra they could just walk away. At the same time, 
proximity to Santarem lightened the social burden of the plantation 
management. Though they still showed movies and provided other fonns of 
recreation, finding something to alleviate worker boredom was no longer a 
pressing concern of the American staff. 

Opposite page: The houses at Belterra were more selfconsciously 
traditional than the ones at Fordlandia, as if mirroring Ford's 
increased cultural conservatism. The bungalows built by Archie 
Johnston at Fordlandia in the wake of the 1930 riot, though 
inappropriate for the climate, sported simple, clean, and functional 
lines. In contrast, Belterra s residences seem mannered, with gabled 
roofs, shutters, and painted trim. They were also, except for want of 
chimneys, indistinguishable from the houses Ford had built in Alberta, 
in Michigan 's Upper Peninsula, around the same time. 
FortheAmericans, too, life felt a little less isolated at Belterra than it did at 
Fordlandia. The mail, including American newspapers and magazines, got there 
quicker and it was easier to get to Santarem or even Belemfor a visit. They lived 
in comfortable dwellings along a shady thoroughfare, not as picturesque as 
Fordlandia but more familiar, level, like a proper "American suburb." They were 
attended to by Barbadian servants and played golf on a "completely flat 9 hole, 
par 38 course. 1 " And they celebrated Christmas, New Year's, and July Fourth 
with parties and dances .- 

With the switch from Fordlandia to Be lten-a, Archie Johnston began to 
supervise operations froniBelem, leaving Curtis Pringle and John Rogge to 
oversee the construction of the new town and plantation. Setting aside his 
irritation with Weir, Sheriff Pringle, named general supervisor of Belterra, turned 
out to be reasonable and pragmatic. He faithfully built the new town center, 
along with houses for laborers and staff, but he tempered the puritanismthat 



nearly wrecked Fordlandia, going easy on attempts to regulate the social life 
and eating habits of the plantation's workforce. As a reporter for Harper s put it 
after a visit, "Mr. Ford and Brazil are still somewhat in disagreement in matters 
of doors, screening, and heights of ceiling, but the ex-sheriffhas proved 
himself an excellent arbiter. He does not insist upon square-dancing or 
wholesome Detroit-style cooking."- 

The medical staff, too, learned to accommodate. After first trying to enforce 
a ban against midwifery, the hospital relented and allowed for home births. 
"There was so much resistance that half the people didn't obey it," recalled 
Emerick SzUagyi, a surgeon from Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital who did a tour 
of duty on the new plantation, "so I lifted the rule and made it voluntary. - 

As a result of this newfound willingness to adapt rather than impose, labor 
problems were much less acute at Belterra than at Fordlandia. There were no 
more kitchen riots and nighttime evacuations of the Americans, no more urgent 
telegrams to Juan Trippe asking for Pan Am hydroplanes to shuttle in 
detachments of soldiers and disperse armed crowds by flying in low over their 
heads. 

Nature, though, refused to be subdued. 

IN LATE 1936, Belterra 's plantation seemed to be in relatively fine shape. 
Pringle had cultivated a nursery with over 5,000,000 seedlings to serve as 
rootstock, cleared and blocked out a good part of the estate, and planted 
700,000 trees. These trees came from a mix of the surviving Southeast Asian 
stock, clones from Fordlandia trees that had weathered the epidemic relatively 
unscathed (thus indicating that they had some immunity to blight), stumps 
obtained in Panama, and seeds gathered fromtrees around the mouth of the 
Amazon, mostly fromMarajo Island, that showed strong resistance. Blight 
began to make an appearance on the leaves of Belterra 's young trees, yet it 
seemed like workers would have a better chance at controlling it than they did 
on Ford's first plantation. The new estate had good soil and was much flatter 
than Fordlandia's rolling hills, which made it easier to fumigate and prune. Set 
back from the river, it experienced less morning fog than Fordlandia, and the 
winds were drier, which also slowed the growth of fungi. 

The main threat to Belterra 's rubber, at least at first, was not blight but bugs. 
The company had great success in eradicating mosquitoes and flies by draining 
and oiling wet areas where they could breed and maintaining a rapid-response 
team of swatters. But as with blight, the concentration of Hevea accelerated the 
reproduction of insects that fed off rubber, leading to wave after wave of 



infestations. "The bugs have never been seen before in such quantities," wrote 
Johnston of an early mite epidemic, ''the reason being there has never been a 
Rubber Estate before with such large nurseries.' - 

The lace bug was rubber's worst predator. In nonnal jungle conditions, the 
natural food chain kept the population low and the threat contained. But as the 
entomologist Charles Townsend, brought in on more than one occasion to 
respond to an outbreak, observed, the "extensive planting of rubber . . . has 
created a greatly increased food supply and the bugs took advantage of it to 
mult iply in proportion." 



Dusting nursery atBelterra against leaffimgi and insects . 

Dearborn officials received a crash course in tropical entomology, having 
asked Townsend to compile an "insect census" forFordlandia. Townsend 
started with lace bugs, noting that they deposited their"eggs on the underside 
of the rubber trees and these hatch into small spiny larvae, which pierce the leaf 
epidennis with a sharp proboscis and suck the juices of the leaves, thus greatly 
weakening the seedlings."— 

He went on to register scores of other problem pests. Red mites sucked the 
sap fromleaves, as did the white flies, which fed on a variety of plants but 
preferred rubber. They "fly freely" about, Townsend observed, and "it is only a 
matter of time" before they "extend over the whole plantation." The flies were 
"attended" to by "small black ants," which likewise drained sap fromthe rubber 




leaf. Then there were the white weevils, ten millimeters long with light blue legs, 
bluish to pinkish leafhoppers, treehoppers with broad bodies and two short, 
sharp horns, spanworms, mandarova moths, green roaches and green 
grasshoppers, large locusts, and generic broad and flat "plant bugs." A similar 
multicolor palette of scale insects — green, white, and black — attached their long 
stylets to leaves, draining them oftheir vigor and leaving a brown or black crust 
when they were done. 

Caterpillars are especially harmful to rubber, and they thrived on Ford's 
estates. There were pale caterpillars and small yellowish to greenish caterpillars 
with erect pointed dorsal tubercles sporting stinging hairs. And there were 
plenty oftussock caterpillars, slug caterpillars, sphinx caterpillars, and hairy 
caterpillars with "slender tufts of black hair near the head." For a brief period, 
fire and suava ants, which swarm from September to November, ate caterpillars, 
but like the white flies they came to prefer aibber. This cavalcade of insects 
attacked not just rubber but machinery as well. "Nocturnal spiders," for 
instance, would "spin webs from wire to ground during wet weather," causing 
the telegraph equipment to short-circuit.— 

The protocol to fight such an array of threats was exhaustive and included 
placing a standing bounty on the "head" of a "mole-type animal that eats 
stumps." Reports back to Dearborn extensively detailed the activity of "ant men 
making their regular rounds," teams of women who pulled weeds and picked 
insects, new experimental techniques to deal with lace bugs, and weekly 
inspections of trees for Fomes lignosus, a root fungus, and Diplodia dieback, 
another fungus distinct from leaf blight. 

The company mobilized Belterra's whole population to respond to 
outbreaks. During one early caterpillar assault on a block of the first trees to be 
planted on the estate, "every available person, man and women, was lined up to 
do an effective handpicking." In five hours, they collected an estimated 250,000 
caterpillars, filling fifty one-gallon containers. When no more caterpillars could 
be found, they emptied the containers into a pile, threw gasoline on it, and 
torched the pyre. 

Beyond bounty hunting and bonfires, Belterra chemists did come up with 
innovative insecticides. They extracted poison fromtimbo and cassava, 
concocted a fish oil wash laced with kerosene, mixed a compound of nicotine 
sulfate and arsenate, and boiled a "poisoned syrup" that was effective against 
fire ants, "designed to kill the whole nest including the queen." The fight 
against insects added even more expense to what it would cost the company to 
produce a pound of latex 




Effects of South American leaf blight on rubber ttee . 

BUT WORKERS WERE holding the insects at bay, and Belterra was 
progressing. The key to success, as always, was to find stock that both yielded 
profitable amounts of latexand had strong immunity to fungi and pests. Pringle 
and others involved in planting the new estate had identified high yielders 
(mostly fromstrains found at the headwaters of the Tapajos, as well as on the 
upper Amazon River, around Acre) and strong resisters (many fromMarajo 
Island, at the mouth of the Amazon). But the staff soon came to realize that 
these two traits tended to be mutually exclusive in wild Hevea: high yielders had 
low immunity, while strong resisters produced too little latex 

It was ostensibly to search for an ever elusive strain of high-yielding and 
hardy Hevea that James Weir, in late 1937, organized yet another seed-gathering 
expedition to the state of Acre. But the pathologist had no intention of 
returning. "This is my last day on the Tapajos," he wrote a confidant. "I did not 
tell anyone at Fordlandia that I did not plan to return after I finish with the 
Upper Amazon. I will drop you a line from God knows where." Perhaps Weir had 



decided to quit the plantation because the appearance of blight had convinced 
himofthe futility of trying to grow estate rubber in the Amazon. Or maybe he 
left because he was peeved that Dearborn denied himpemiission to make a 
second trip to Southeast Asia. Whatever the case, in keeping with his aversion 
to teamwork, he said not a word to anyone at Fordlandia or Belterra.— 

Johnston was glad to be rid of him Once it was clear that Weir was not 
returning to Fordlandia, Johnston told Dearborn he would welcome a 
replacement, so long as he didn't have previous experience in Asia and thus 
wasn't steeped in assumptions that "might not apply" in Brazil. "'Some young 
Harvard graduate in Botany and Genetics, one that came fromthe West with a 
farm background," was his idea of a suitable candidate. "'Bring himhere," he 
said, and "let him learn plantation practices, and through time he will develop 
into the man you want." Actually, Johnston didn't have to look far, for two 
individuals with the qualities he described, short of a Harvard pedigree, were 
already on the plantation. 

Edward and Charles Townsend — sons of the entomologist— had been 
Weir's assistants, and now they took over research. They focused on selection 
and controlled cross-fertilization to try to produce hybrids that had both 
desirable traits. They made some progress, particularly using bees as 
pollinators. Yet they had trouble finding just the right combination. One hybrid 
proved resistant to blight and a high yielder, but its leaves were thin and 
unusually vulnerable to lace bug. Another, with thicker leaves, ran unimpressive 
amounts of sap.— 

Even as they worked to cultivate hybrids, the Townsend brothers began 
experimenting with crown, or top, grafting, a technique that had been developed 
in Southeast Asia to control leaf mildew but never put to large-scale commercial 
use. Once a tree created by grafting a high-yielding strain of Hevea to a healthy 
rootstock attained a height of seven feet, planters would perform a second graft 
higher on the trunk, this one iromHevea that had demonstrated strong 
resistance. After this splice took, the old crown would be lopped off and the 
result would be a tree formed of three distinct genetic compositions: durable 
roots, a high-yield trunk, and a full, verdant crown of blight-and bug-resistant 
leaves .— 

To Johnston's delight, the experiment was working. The grafts were holding, 
even against the Tapajos's strong winds, and the circumference of twice-grafted 
trees grew at the same rate as did an unspliced tree's. The procedure was time- 
consuming and costly and entailed building bulky scaffolding in the field to 



perform the operation and to support the graft until the tissue fused. And since 
only about every other graft took, the process had to be performed twice or 
sometimes three times until the graft bonded. But until a suitable hybrid could 
be created and multiplied in sufficient quantities, crown-grafted rubber was the 
only potentially competitive alternative to mass-produced Southeast Asian 
latex. And it held enough promise that US agricultural scientists — who, with 
Japan on the march through China and Germany gearing up its military and 
munitions industry, had once again been mobilized by Washington to find a 
secure source of "war rubber" — began to copy the method in experimental 
stations in Costa Rica and the Panama Canal Zone. 

After Weir's departure, Johnston stepped up planting at Belterra. Over the 
next couple of years, work crews cleared over twenty thousand acres and 
planted close to two million trees, about a third of them top grafted. The 
plantation continued to suffer fromchronic insect invasions, yet Belterra finally 
began to look like a true commercial estate, with its level groves blocked out in 
twenty-square-acre sections in an orderly fashion and its technicians keeping 
precise records of where they planted which seeds, seedlings, and bud grafts, 
so as to control for and develop better strains ofHevea. 

But then Johnston lost his two best men. In late 1937, as John Rogge was 
traveling to Fordlandia to deliver a payroll, his boat was tipped by a late 
afternoon Tapajos storm, the kind that can come out of nowhere and call up 
oceanlike waves. Rogge fell overboard and drowned. A year later, Pringle, who 
had survived his fight with Weir relatively unscathed, had a nervous 
breakdown. He had been in the Amazon for a decade, having taken very little of 
his assigned vacation time. He became entangled in a series of petty fights with 
fellow staff members and started to suffer frominsomnia, aggravated by 
drinking cup after cup of coffee "day and night, and through the night," and 
chain-smoking strong Brazilian cigarettes. Belterra's doctor diagnosed him as 
having all the symptoms of a "Very nervous condition." His hands grew cold 
despite the heat, "denoting," the doctor said, a "general let down." The sheriff's 
wife also began to let herself go, ignoring a tooth abscess until the infection 
spread to her jaw. 

"So much for the Pringles," wrote the doctor to officials in Dearborn, who 
ordered the couple to return to Michigan at the end of 1938.— 

MEANWHILE, OPINION MAKERS in Rio and Sao Paulo continued to 
clamor for a visit fromHenry Ford. As they heard reports that his Amazon 
enterprise had solved many of its social problems only to be beset by natural 
ones, it seemed all the more important that he come to see his namesake 



plantation. Brazil's Chamber of Commerce and Industry published an open letter 
in a Rio newspaper advising him to gain firsthand knowledge of the town that 
bore his name: 

Everything in life has its right and left side, its good and bad turn. 
With the wonderful enterprising spirit characteristic of Henry Ford, 
which makes him one of the greatest men of our times, he is ready to do 

everything in order to develop his large rubber plantation Unluckily, 

however, there was one principal element lacking for the success of his 
enterprise: personal knowledge of the region. ... It would be very 
advantageous if Ford, who is already invited officially to visit Brazil, 
would visit the Tapajos, and give instructions to his representatives 
personally, instructions which would be capable of guaranteeing the 
success of the operations being undertaken in Para. 
The invitations kept arriving. The president of a small college in Sao Paulo 

invited him to do a radio interview: 

Your books have been widely read in Brazil, and aside from your 
commercial interests in the country, through the automobile that bears 
your name, or your properties at Fordlandia, what you say and write is 
always read with very great interest. It has long been hoped that you 
would visit the country some day. The least that could be done to bring 
you in direct contact with the people would be a short fifteen minute 
interview over the radio, where your voice would be heard, expressing 
your own ideas on subjects of mutual interest to you and the Brazilians. 
'T think," the president concluded his invitation, "this offers you a real 

opportunity to in some way establish a little more personal contact with the 

Brazilian people." 

But as Ford advanced in years, the man who claimed to have invented the 
modem world began to develop a mild case of technophobia. Despite his 
promotion of air flight — PR for his company's aviation division — he didn't 
really like airplanes, so his long-promised arrival on Charles Lindbergh's Spirit 
of St. Louis was out of the question. As was, apparently, a radio interview. 

Ford's secretary cabled the college president, simply saying, "Sony Mr. 
Ford unable to comply with your request. Does not broadcast."— 



CHAPTER 22 

FALLEN EMPIRE OF RUBBER 

THE FINALYEARS OF FORDLANDIA AND BELTERRA MIRRORED THE 
final struggles of Ford's life; one can read in the letters and reports Archie 
Johnston sent back to Dearborn the history of the Ford Motor Company during 
the Great Depression — particularly the battles fought against unions and the 
growing reach of the federal government into its economic affairs. Though a 
protege of Charles Sorensen, who competed with Harry Bennett for Ford's 
favor, Johnston was sympathetic to Bennett, writing him letters complaining of 
his graying hair and the jungle heat and sending himjaguar skins, hammocks, 
and other Amazonian curios. Bennett, who kept a number of tigers and lions as 
pets at his "castle" — as his house on Geddes Road in Ann Arbor was called 
— was grateful, and he kept Johnston updated on his efforts to beat back 
unionismat the Rouge. 

Ford was not alone in his opposition to collective bargaining. When 
Congress passed the Wagner Act in 1935, leveling the playing field somewhat in 
the fight between capital and labor by protecting workers engaged in organizing 
fromarbitrary dismissal, Detroit's Big Three all stated their resolve to remain 
union free. The United Automobile Workers, founded in 1935 and led by Walter 
and Mctor Reuther, was small and practically penniless. But its members found a 
powerful weapon in the sit-down strike, halting production not by picketing on 
the outside but by refusing to leave their workstations, a move that stopped 
owners fromhiring scabs. CM fell in 1936, signing a contract with the UAW, 
followed shortly by Chrysler. That left only Ford.- 

The Rouge went into lockdown. Harry Bennett added more men to the ranks 
of his already bloated Service Department. His gunsels stepped up their 
surveillance, searching lockers and lunch pails for UAW literature, following 
workers into bathrooms to make sure no union talk occurred, and breaking up 
gatherings of two or more employees. Ford wouldn't let instruments of war be 
exhibited in his museum. Yet he let Bennett place machine guns atop the Rouge 
plant. The campaign against the UAW created a siege mentality among Ford's 
managers, and Bennett used his free rein to go after not just labor organizers or 
potential union supporters but anyone showing any sign of disloyalty. 
Bennett's men went undercover in the bars, markets, and churches that Ford 



workers frequented, reporting back on union sympathy and general grousing. In 
1937, Bennett made front-page national headlines — just as he had five years 
earlier with the "Dearborn Massacre" — when photographers captured him and 
about forty of his men attacking Walter Reuther and other UAW members as 
they handed out union literature outside the factoiy 's Gate 4. The thugs beat 
Reuther bloody and then threw him down a set of stone steps. They stomped 
on other organizers and broke the back of a minister. One woman vomited blood 
after being kicked in the stomach. The assault took place outside the same gate 
where Bennett and his men murdered the hunger marchers. 

Edsel, who not only believed unionization to be inevitable but was broadly 
sympathetic to the New Deal as a step toward corporate rationalization, tried to 
intervene to limit Bennett's power. But Henry Ford, now seventy-four and in 
failing health — he would suffer a stroke in 1938 — repeatedly reaffirmed 
Bennett's authority over labor issues. "He has my full confidence," he told his 
son. "The Ford Motor Company would be carried away," Henry said, "there 
wouldn't be anything left, if it wasn't for Harry.' - 

Archie Johnston watched these developments fromafar, and he read his 
own ongoing battles with labor and the Brazilian government into them He 
certainly was more partial to Bennett than was Edsel, whomhe equated with 
James Weir. "FDR's actions," he wrote to Charles Sorensen following GM's and 
Chrysler's surrender, are "pitifully weak." He reported his successful defeat of 
Fordlandia's "first sit down strike" in June 1937, when about seventy-one men 
who cut wood for the boilers occupied the powerhouse. Johnston settled it in 
Bennett-like fashion, depriving the strikers of food and water until they vacated 
the building. "Now all is in order," he wrote.- 

But Johnston in the jungle — stymied by a chronic labor shortage despite the 
global depression — found himself much more vulnerable than Bennett at the 
Rouge. Like FDR Brazil's president, Getulio \argas, presided over a process of 
economic and political modernization, challenging the extreme power of landed 
elites and provincial politicians — power roughly analogous to the autonomy of 
states in the United States prior to the New Deal.- Johnston had welcomed 
Rio's intervention when it was used to rein in the localAmazonian elite, who 
had made life difficult for the company. Now, though, Rio had become part of 
the problem 



\argas 's government promoted new labor laws that made it easier for 
workers to unioni2e and required companies to provide paid vacations, 
severance pay, and pensions. Taking advantage of the new situation, workers at 
both Belterra and Fordlandia organised a union in early 1937 and began to file a 
growing number of complaints — mostly related to disputes over what union 
leaders described as arbitrary firings or efforts to claimnewly mandated benefits 
— in federal labor court. As a result, government inspectors were regularly 
showing up at the plantations to demand access to company records and take 
testimony fromemployees. After a judge ruled that the company was subject to 
the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor — and not the Ministry of Agriculture, 
as Ford lawyers tried to argue as a way to exempt Ford from a new labor code 
— activists had become increasingly "bold," as Johnston wrote Dearborn, in 
their demands. Belterra was easily accessible to the Brazilian press, so he had to 
act with circumspection in dealings with organizers. At the more remote 
Fordlandia, though, Johnston fired a number of the most vocal, including the 
president and vice president of the union. But they continued their activities, 
simply moving offshore to set up their "headquarters on an island in the river."- 

This was not the Island of the Innocents that held the brothels and bars but 
rather Francisco Franco's Urucurituba, which became a refuge for Fordlandia 's 
labor leaders. In general terms, Vargas's pro labor legislation, as part of his 
broader political and social agenda, was designed to undercut the local power 
of rural potentates like Franco. It was a Wgas appointee who in the weeks after 
the December 1930 riot not only forced Franco to sell Pau d'Agua to Ford for a 
pittance but also removed himfromhis position as mayor of the nearby 
municipality ofAveiros. But these actions had one consequence that 
Fordlandia managers could not have foreseen: in retaliation, Franco began to 
support Fordlandia 's labor organizers, creating an unlikely alliance between the 
modernizing thrust of unions and the feudal reaction of a provincial don.- 

As did his counterparts at the Rouge, Johnston tried to keep the union at 
bay. "The Company," he warned his workers, "will not tolerate labor 
organizations." But after Rogge's death and Pringle's collapse, Johnston found 
himself shorthanded. The replacements Dearborn sent down lacked hands-on 
experience in running a plantation labor force, leaving Johnston in Belemto rely 
on a teamof untested managers. And the law was against him. Johnston had no 



choice but to yield when a local judge ruled in 1939 that Ford's rubber 
plantations were indeed subject to Vargas 's new federal labor law guaranteeing 
workers the right to organic; that same year a federal judge in the United States 
found the Ford Motor Company guilty of violating the Wagner Act. 

Years before the River Rouge was forced to negotiate a contract with the 
United Automobile Workers, Fordlandia and Belterra had a union. 

VARGAS REMAINED APPRECIATIVE of Ford, despite the support his 
administration gave to the plantation's workers. Like Ford, the Brazilian 
president considered himself a modemizer. During his administration, Brazil's 
road network doubled in size and the number of airports increased from31 to 
512. In any case, once it was established that Ford's plantations were subject to 
new labor and social welfare legislation, government arbiters usually dismissed 
most of the specific complaints brought against the company by employees. 
Dependent on the goodwill of a president who by the end of the 1930s had 
assumed dictatorial powers, EdselFord, upon learning that Vargas intended to 
tour northern Brazil in late 1940 to promote the development of the region, sent 
hima telegram inviting himto review Belterra. Since Archie Johnston was out of 
the country on vacation, he asked Harry Braunstein, executive manager of 
Ford's Rio assembly plant, to receive Vargas in his and his father's name.- 

Vargas arrived at Belterra on October 8 in a hydroplane, circling overhead a 
few times to survey the town and planting fields before landing. As the plane 
pulled up to the dock and the president stepped out, Braunstein gave the signal 
to the band to strike up Brazil's national anthem, sung by several hundred 
children from the Henry Ford and Edsel Ford schools, "properly dressed in 
uniforms." When Vargas and his staff climbed into a waiting Lincoln to drive the 
ten miles to the plateau where Belterra was located, a number of men in the 
crowd asked that the motor be turned off and they be allowed to pull the 
president to the plantation, "signifying in that way their happiness and joy." 
Braunstein prevailed on them to abandon the idea as impractical, suggesting 
instead that sixty or so bicyclists fomian escort. Along the way, cheered by 
crowds of onlookers, Vargas commented on the neatness of the children's dress 
and the "excellence of the road," noting that Brazil "certainly needed more such 
roads." His aide-de-camp remarked that he himself was fromnorthem Brazil and 
he had never seen "as healthy a group of men as greeted the President" 



anywhere in the region. Once in Belterra, \argas found much else to praise — the 
hospital, the dentist's office, schools that supplied books, pencils, and uniforms 
free of charge to the students, a spacious dance hall and other recreation 
facilities, and clean, tidy houses with colorful front gardens. The presidential 
entourage went on a "mosquito hunt" in a number of the plantation's screened 
buildings and found not a one.- 

That afternoon, \argas gave a speech in Belterra 's new park, telling Ford's 
workers that the main objective of his government was to "create social laws 
which would serve to establish social harmony among all, to establish frank and 
sincere collaboration and co-operation between employer and employee, with all 
working toward the same end." Of course, he said, if there were "more men like 
Mr. Ford in this world no social legislation would be necessary." He then led a 
round of cheers for Henry and Edsel Ford. That night at dinner, Braunstein 
apologi2ed that the two Fords couldn't be there in person to welcome himbut 
presented \argas with their signed photographs. He raised his glass to the 
president's commitment to progress and to advancing the well-being of 
workers. "Mr. Ford," Braunstein said, was the "first industrialist in the world 
who revolutionized the relations between worker and employer by giving them 
that which contributed to a life of comfort and equality, and we are doing 
everything within our power to follow in his footsteps in the treatment of those 
who work, produce, and co-operate in this project." One day, he said, admitting 
that the long-promised recovery of the latex trade had so far remained elusive, it 
"may possibly mean the re-birth of the Amazon \alley," the revival of the "fallen 
Empire of Rubber." 

\argas rose to share his impressions of the plantation, expressing "great 
satisfaction" that Ford was doing so much to "plant" not just rubber but 
"health, comfort and happiness." Echoing Braunstein 's admission that so far 
the project had proved viable more in humanitarian terms than in economic 
ones, he emphasized the carmaker's generosity: Ford had not "as yet received 
any material compensation" despite his considerable expenditure. The rest of 
the evening and the next day involved more mutual expressions of admiration. 
There was, though, one piece of business Braunstein wanted to bring up with 
the president. Just before \argas left, Braunstein, speaking in the name of Henry 
Ford, requested that he transfer Belterra and Fordlandia out of the jurisdiction 



of the Ministry of Labor and place them under the supervision of the Ministry 
of Agriculture — which would in effect make the company immune to labor law. 
\argas said he would consider the request but promised nothing as he boarded 
his plane to fly to Manaus. 

There, \argas gave a speech that is considered by historians to mark the 
beginning of a long campaign by Brazil's federal government to populate and 
industrialize the Amazon. The address echoed Ford's technological optimism 
and advocacy of large-scale development projects. Yet perhaps influenced by 
his visit to Belterra, where he witnessed the failure of Ford's millions to revive 
the rubber economy, \argas seemed to repudiate the kind of rural/industrial 
holism, driven by a respect for nature, the carmaker believed he could achieve in 
the Upper Peninsula, Muscle Shoals, the Tapajos, and elsewhere. Known as the 
"March to the West," \argas's speech gave nature no quarter. "The highest 
task of civilizing man," the Brazilian president said, was to conquer and 
dominate the valleys of the great equatorial torrents," transforming their blind 
force and the extraordinary fertility into disciplined energy. The Amazon . . . 
shall become a chapter in the history of civilization."- 

Following \argas, one administration after another established government 
agencies and announced new schemes to rapidly modernize the region, to 
achieve "fifty years in five," as one of Vargas's successors put it, orto send 
"people without land" to a "land without people," as the military government of 
the 1960s described its colonization plan. Most of these efforts would fail on 
their own terms — that is, they did not bring sustainable, humane development 
to the region. They did, however, accelerate rapid deforestation, beginning what 
William Woodsworth night have called a "rash assault" on the largest intact 
tropical rain forest left on the planet. 

FN DEARBORN, SOCIALrelations were decidedly less harmonious than 
either Braunstein or \argas had painted them that night in Belterra. The UAW 
had grown rapidly at the River Rouge and other Ford plants since its founding 
in 1935. Having forced GM and Chrysler to the table, organizers could harness 
the union's resources in their fight against the lone holdout of the Big Three. In 
early 1941, activists shut down the Rouge in protest over the widespread firing 
of labor activists. It was the first strike ever called against Henry Ford and 
union leaders were not sure how his employees would respond. Only a third of 



the Rouge's workforce had by then signed with the UAW — Bennett's 
"terrorism," as the National Labor Relations Board described his reign, had its 
effects. - 

As the strike spread throughout the Rouge's many divisions, Bennett first 
tried to label it communistic, an act of treason since the Ford Motor Company 
had just signed an agreement with the Roosevelt administration to begin war 
production. Workers answered by carrying pickets emblazDned with swastikas, 
equating Ford with Hitler. Why, one sign asked, did "Ford get a Nazi medal?" 
— a reference to the Grand Cross of the German Eagle bestowed by the German 
consul on Ford three years earlier on his seventy-fifth birthday. Unable to red- 
bait, Bennett next tried to race-bait. He hoped to capitalize on the loyalty some 
African American workers had for Ford based on his equal opportunity hiring 
(as well as their distrust of an all-white union leadership) to convince them to 
go back to work. This, too, failed. Most workers, including many African 
American workers, refused to return to their jobs.— 

Ford threatened to shut the plant down rather than bargain collectively with 
his workers. Yet within a few weeks, in one of the greatest about-faces in US 
labor history, he not only agreed to recognize the results of a union election 
but, after the UAW won that election with an overwhelming majority, signed a 
contract that gave the union everything it wanted, including job security, the 
highest wages in the industry, and backpay to more than four thousand 
wrongfully fired workers. Historians debate what led Ford, who once moved a 
whole factory from New England to Michigan to thwart a union drive, to relent. 
Some point to Edsel's pleading, backed up with Clara Ford's threat to leave 
Henry if he didn't settle. Whatever the specific combination of motives that 
drove him to the bargaining table, when Ford finally met with Walter Reuther to 
congratulate him on his victory, he spun his surrender in the same conspiratorial 
web he used to explain most things in life. "You've been fighting General 
Motors and the Wall Street crowd," he said, now "we fight General Motors and 
Wall Street together, ehl"— 

The deal also included a strong and binding grievance procedure that, 
considering what historians Peter Collier and David Horowitz call the "bizarre 
comb ination of feudal laws and naked power" that arbitrarily governed Ford's 
factory floor, was the industrial equivalent of enforcing due process on the 



divine right of kings. Ford often said his company was revolutionary, yet it took 
militant labor organizers to make it so.— 

BACK IN THEAmazon, Johnston was having no better luck with rubber 
than he had holding off the union. By the time of Vargas's visit, plantation 
workers at Belterra had cleared nearly thirty thousand acres and planted close 
to three million trees. About a third of them were top grafted, still too young to 
give latexbut showing promising vigor and fortitude. Then in late 1940, leaf 
blight, always present yet contained at Belterra, turned epidemic. Johnston, 
back from vacation, responded by ordering his crew to quickly top graft all 
tainted trees. But by the following year, blight had infected 70 percent of the 
blocks with closed canopies, killing most of the estate's trees.— 

After the entry of the United States into World War II in 1941, Johnston was 
recalled to Dearborn, where he joined Ford's aviation division as it converted to 
the production of bombers and other wartime planes. But he remained the 
principal administrator of Ford's Amazon plantations and enjoyed talking with 
reporters and other Ford workers about his ten years in the jungle. "No white 
man," he liked to say, "can live in that country." He also remained committed to 
the expansion of rubber production and continued to hold out hope that top 
grafting, given time, could overcome blight, pest, and scales. Partial vindication 
came earlier the next year when, despite two years of epidemic blight, Belterra 
yielded 750 tons of latex It wasn't high-quality rubber, and it was a far cry from 
Ford's annual consumption of fifty million pounds. But Johnston thought it a 
start- 
Then, on a return trip to Brazil in October 1942, Johnston witnessed what he 
called "the greatest swarmof caterpillars that has ever been seen in this area." 
For years, Fordlandia's caterpillar battalions had performed extensiveand 
relentless handpicking to contain the pests. Now a new generation of moths 
had evolved and adapted to the threat by laying their eggs "only on the new 
shoots at the top of the trees ." At that height, pickers couldn't see the hatched 
caterpillars until it was too late, until they had swarmed "down the tree eating all 
before them"— The trees recovered somewhat, putting out another shoot of 
leaves. But in what seemed to Johnston to be a coordinated follow-up, the 
leaves were then assaulted by leaf blight — the "most severe attack in the 
history of the plantation." This time there was no rallying, "hi many cases [the 



trees] had not strength to put out a third flush of foliate. With the excessive dry 
weather the trees started to die back. Some have died halfway down the trunk 
and may die completely."— 

"Some areas," Johnston reported to Dearborn, "are now as bare as bean 
poles." 



-The New Deal's most radical proposals came early, in a burst of laws 
Roosevelt shepherded through Congress soon after his 1933 inauguration, only 
to be diluted as time wore on; \argas, in contrast, moved slowly, proposing only 
moderate changes upon taking power in 1930. But as opposition emerged, 
\argas and his supporters, after suppressing a rebellion staged by Sao Paulo 
elites opposed to his efforts to concentrate federal power in Rio, became more 
aggressive. They adopted a new centralizing constitution in 1934 and then three 
years later declared the Estado Novo, or New State, best thought of as a fusion 
of Mussolini-style corporatismand New Deal social welfare. 



CHAPTER 23 

TOMORROW LAND 

"MYDEAR HARVEY" EDSELFORD WROTE TO THE NAMESAKE SON 
OF his father's old friend Harvey Firestone shortly after the United States had 
entered World War II, "I think I mentioned to you once something about selling 
our rubber plantation property on the Tapajos River in Brazil. If you would 
consider buying it, or have anything like that in mind, would you care to 
discuss the matter with me?" Firestone, who had taken over his deceased 
father's company, had nothing like that in mind. He was already getting about 
ten thousand tons of latexa year fromhis plantation in Liberia. The tire maker 
politely declined the offer. 

By this point, Fordlandia and Belterra had practically becoire a subsidiary of 
the US government. Throughout his life, Ford had steadfastly opposed the 
fusion of business and government even as other American industrialists, 
particularly during the Great Depression, embraced it. But now in his late 
seventies he could do little but watch the marriage go forward. 

The Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia and its mbber fields led to a 
renewed interest among Washington officials, not just in the Departments of 
Commerce and Agriculture but in the Pentagon as well, to find new sources of 
"war mbber." There had been advances over the last decade in the production 
of synthetic mbber, yet its production used up too much petroleum, an equally 
scarce resource. After war broke out, the Roosevelt administration signed 
treaties with sixteen Latin American countries to promote mbber production, 
promising government and private investment and guaranteeing high prices for 
their latex. \Srgas, who flirted with fascismbut quickly lined up with the Allies, 
signed on.- 

The Brazilian Amazon, despite the millions of dollars invested by Ford, was 
supplying less than 1 percent of the world's latex hi exchange for a $100 million 
loan, which included $5 million to invest in Amazon mbber, \Srgas promised to 
sell all of his country's exportable mbber to the United States at a fixed price 
until December 1946. Rio began to work closely with US government agencies 
such as the Rubber Development Corporation, the Board of Economic Warfare, 
and the Office of Inter-American Affairs — headed by the peripatetic Nelson 
Rockefeller, who because of his deep business ties in the region became FDR's 
most influential envoy to Latin America. The idea was to encourage the 



migration of tens of thousands of laborers to the Amazon in the hope of jump- 
starting rubber production. These "rubber soldiers" were promised credit and 
tools, decent housing, clothing, iredical attention, beefed-up labor protection 
against local rubber bosses, and a fixed, honest, and livable price for their latex 
— in short, a New Deal-style guarantee to protect themagainst all those 
miseries cataloged so vividly in Carl LaRue's 1927 report, miseries that the 
coming of Henry Ford to the Amazon was supposed to have ended. 

Archie Johnston by temperament and training was ill-disposed to welcome 
the attentions of the federal government — be they Rio's or Washington's — into 
Fordlandia's affairs, and he still resented having been forced to recognize the 
plantation worker's union. Yet having just witnessed the last, consuming blight 
infestation and caterpillar invasion at Belterra, he had run out of ideas about 
how to move forward in Brazil. He told Edsel that partnership with the 
government could perhaps finally make Ford's rubber estates profitable and that 
Washington's promise to pay an above-market price for latex could offset the 
estate's cost overruns . He also thought the hyped "war for rubber" might 
provide much needed labor. 

So at the same time that Ford Motors in the United States was suspending 
production of civilian vehicles to meet the exclusive needs of its now single 
customer — building jeeps, planes, and tanks and allowing federal 
representatives to monitor production — Fordlandia, too, was opened up to 
Washington. Botanists fromthe Department of Agriculture set up shop in 
Fordlandia and Belterra to study Ford's top-grafting and cross-fertilization 
techniques. Federal scientists watched workers furiously bud graft trees in an 
attempt to outrun leaf disease and caterpillar infestations, and they took 
samples ofthe plantation's rubber stock back with them to US government 
tropical research stations in the Panama Canal Zone. In May 1942, Edsel wrote a 
letter to Johnston, certainly not vetted by his father, saying he had "no 
objection" to the Department of Agriculture's distributing Fordlandia clones to 
other Latin American countries .— 

AS THEAMERICAN press geared itself toward promoting the war effort, 
Ford's Amazon plantations assumed their final incarnation: useful embassies of 
FDR's wartime Good Neighbor Policy, staging grounds for New Deal diplomacy 
in the Amazon. As part ofthe war effort, Johnston ordered plantation managers 
to push forward on a frantic programof expansion. By the end of March 1943, 



field workers had top grafted more than 820,000 trees and performed about 
60,000 hand pollinations to breed high-yielding, disease-resistant stock The 
nursery had produced enough clones to graft hundreds of thousands of 
crowns onto trees already planted in the field, and for a stretch of 1944, workers 
were performing tens of thousands of top grafts a month. "Mr. Johnston and 
assistants are soberly confident," wrote one journalist, "but without 
overflowing enthusiasm They have battled Amazonia too long for that. The 
successful trees I saw, their leaves glistening and green as they should be, 
confront the Amazonian jungle as forerunners ofmillions of scions being 
prepared for other advance bases . Someone close to the development of 
plantation rubber in the Amazon Basin told me that anyone except Henry Ford 
would have surrendered long ago." Admittedly, Ford's rubber output might be 
but a "drop in the bucket," but it was enough to "help plug the serious leak in 
our stock pile." And it would "increase geometrically year after year." As late as 
1945, one writer was forecasting that Fordlandia would be producing five 
hundred tons of latex by 1950.- 

But the blight and the bugs continued to undennine all efforts. Though 
Belterra and Fordlandia were finally producing some latex, their operating cost 
was much higher than what rubber was trading for on the international market, 
despite the war. With large blocks of rubber trees ravaged by leaf blight, 
Belterra workers were collecting only about 165 pounds of latexper acre, a 
woefully low yield considering the amount of capital that had been invested. 
Peasants in Sumatra in the 1930s, in contrast, tapped about twice that amount in 
the same acreage.- 

Yet while the two plantations were economic failures, their well-ordered 
towns stood as shining examples of the American dream. Travel writers poured 
into Latin America to report on the state of the wartime Good Neighbor Alliance, 
and for those traveling through the Amazon, Fordlandia and Belterra became 
obligatory layovers, places where they gladly traded the promise of a good 
story for a good bed. After a rough tiire up the Tapajos, Henry Albert Phillips 
was happy to find at Belterra a "guest house that might have been in Dearborn, 
Michigan, or even in Paradise, after what I had come through to get there. Hot 
shower, frozen fresh food dinner, electric fans, Beauty Rest Mattress, and the 
first sleep in weeks that was not like a steambath." Ford's first Amazon 
plantation might have been a "multiple -million-do liar failure," Phillips wrote in a 



book called Brazil: Bulwark of Inter-American Relations , but in Belterra he 
found the "living image of the ghostly Fordlandia," a place where "Fordlandia's 
brightest dreams were being substantiated." 

Walt Disney visited Fordlandia in 1941 on a tour organized by Nelson 
Rockefeller's Office of Inter-American Affairs, as part of the agency's mission 
to promote the commercial, cultural, and scientific integration of the Americas. 
Three years later, using film footage supplied by the Ford Motor Company, 
Disney released a documentary under the auspices of Rockefeller's agency 
called The Amazon Awakens, which celebrated the Ford town as one of the 
Amazon's four great cities, along with Iquitos, Manaus, and Belem The film, 
typical of others made during the war to highlight pan-American goodwill, 
included images of Americans playing golf on a course that looked like it could 
have been located in California, right where Disney after the war would build his 
own namesake model town. Like Fordlandia, which promised to wrench the 
Amazon into modernity while simultaneously organizing square dances and 
pastoral poetry readings for its workers, Disneyland's themed parks would mix 
and match different experiences of time: the stage coaches, river-boats, and 
railroads of Frontierland, along with Main Street USA, modeled on Disney's 
hometown of Marceline, Missouri, captured a bygone America, while 
Tomorrowland pointed to the future. Adventureland featured a jungle river 
cruise on a boat called the Amazon Belled 

Fordlandia's and Belterra 's laboratories and hospitals were put to use as 
federal experimental stations, in an effort to improve the health and nutritional 
conditions of the Amazon and support large-scale migration. Plantation doctors 
cooperated closely with the Office of Inter-American Affairs, which in support 
of the war for rubber was carrying out a large-scale campaign to eliminate the 
diseases that stood in the way of maintaining a large, concentrated labor force 
in the jungle. They shared their research with government public health 
reforrrers on how to fight malaria, hookworm, and other infectious diseases. 
Johnston even ordered a new building constructed to house a corps of Brazilian 
nurses who would work under the auspices of Rockefeller's health program- 
In 1942, air force officials requested that the Ford Motor Company build a 
runway in Belterra to conceal a stash of planes. German U-boats had been 
targeting Allied ships off Brazil's coasts, and the air force was nervous that 
Belem's airport — considered one of the mast critical along the US-Latin 



American-African route — was vulnerable. After consulting with Edsel, 
Johnston agreed. But he hoped at least to get some labor in exchange for this 
cooperation. "You of course are aware," he wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Qiarles 
Wooley, "that there is a great shortage of labor, and the entire project is only 
possible if more men are obtainable." But no help was forthcoming, and he had 
to build the airstrip with the plantation workers he had on hand.- 

Fordlandia and Belterra were in effect nationalized, both practically — their 
clones distributed to other plantations to support the war effort, their doctors 
and technicians placed under the command of Rockefeller's government health 
campaign, and their land and labor put to the service of the US military — and 
symbolically. Henry Ford of course intended Fordlandia to be an example of his 
particular American dream, of how Ford-style capitalism — high wages, humane 
benefits, and moral improvement — could bring prosperity to a benighted land, 
free of government meddling. Yet by the early 1940s, Fordlandia 's economic 
failure actually strengthened the hand of those who advocated for increased 
government investment in, and regulation of, the rubber industry, while its clean 
streets, functioning utilities, and impressive record in hygiene and health care 
made it an effective symbol of what the New Deal-style political and economic 
cooperation could accomplish abroad, even in a place as remote and 
underdeveloped as the Amazon. 

Though nothing came of it, James G. McDonald, head of FDR's Advisory 
Committee on Political Refugees, even secured Henry Ford's tentative 
pemission to resettle European Jewish refugees at Fordlandia. McDonald met 
with Ford at Dearborn on April 1, 1941, along with Harry Bennett, Archie 
Johnston, and Albert Kahn, to discuss the matter. The Nazis had overrun 
Eastern Europe and invaded North Africa, but Pearl Harbor was still a few 
months in the future, so the River Rouge had yet to be turned over to wartime 
production. As McDonald laid out his proposal, Bennett kept interrupting the 
conference to take phone calls. As it turned out, the meeting was taking place 
on the very day the UAW launched its strike of River Rouge, and Bennett was 
issuing a series of urgent orders in an effort to contain the situation. Ford 
himself didn't look well, McDonald thought. He had "aged markedly" since the 
last time the two had met. He was "vague" in his responses and seemed 
distracted, drifting off on tangents. "We are on this earth to work and for 
nothing else," he said; laziness was the cause of most of the world's ills, 



including the war. Archie Johnston related the history of Fordlandia to FDR's 
emissary and said that he wasn't optimistic about settling large numbers of 
European Jews on the plantation, since "for them to work the land would be to 
lose caste because almost all of the laborers today are colored natives." 
Johnston thought it would be better to send them to southern Brazil, around 
Sao Paulo. Three times in the conversation, Ford let McDonald know that he 
thought synthetic rubber would replace natural latexand that his Brazilian 
plantations would be better used for the large-scale relocation of small farmers. 
He agreed in principle to settle Jewish exiles on them, though he refused to 
commit to a specific plan for action. And at a number of points, both Bennett 
and Ford interrupted the discussion to declare "they were not interested in this 
scheme in any sense as a means of easing criticismat Mr. Ford's alleged anti- 
Senitism'- 

EDSELDJED IN 1943, and for a dangerously long moment Harry Bennett 
tottered on the edge of taking complete control of the Ford Motor Company. 
After the first UAW contract was signed in 1941, Bennett had managed to retain 
and even tighten his hold over the increasingly senile Ford. He even dubiously 
claimed that Henry added a codicil to his will putting him in charge of the 
company upon his death — which, after Ford's passing, Bennett claimed to have 
burned. Yet the recognition of the UAW and the establishment of a grievance 
procedure began to erode Bennett's power, whose chief source of authority 
— the ability to terrorize workers — was taken away from him After another, this 
time major stroke, Henry, again urged on by his wife, Clara, turned over the 
company to his grandson. In this, she had a little help fromthe Roosevelt 
administration. Alamied that the company it depended on for war materiel was 
being crippled by infighting and mismanagement, the White House had 
arranged the early release ofthe young Henry fromthe navy, hoping that he 
might be able to bring some sanity to his grandfather's company. 

Henry Ford II took over a business worth overabillion dollars and 
employing more than 130,000 workers — 75,000 of themin the Rouge alone. Yet it 
had no systemof oversight (a few years earlier, Henry Ford had abolished the 
Accounting Department when he learned that Edsel had, without consulting 
him, ordered the construction of a new office building) save the remnants of 
Bennett's vast spy network, and it was wracked by years of corruption and 
pilfering. Millions of dollars of material were stolen yearly fromFord plants. 



Bennett himself siphoned a substantial cut fromnumerous contracts. With "no 
cost control, no mechanismfor establishing or checking plans," the Ford Motor 
Company was not just a metaphorical labyrinth. It actually had secret lairs 
where nidlevel thugs enjoyed illicit pleasures . Henry II busted one up 
personally, using an iron club to break down the door. The internal disaster of 
the Ford Motor Company actually made Fordlandia look like a model of 
efficiency and transparency. And the company hadn't made a civilian vehicle in 
over three years .— 

So considering the pressure on Henry II to rebuild the company and get it 
ready for postwar production, his decision to sell off his grandfather's many 
money-losing village industries, including holdings in the Upper Peninsula, 
didn't take much thought. The economic boom that tookplace in the decades 
after World War II would "decentralize" American life, but in its own way 
— through the growth of the interstate highway system, suburban 
development, and the migration of industry from the Northeast and Midwest to 
the South, the Southwest, and then abroad. And it wouldn't be propelled, as 
Ford once predicted, by "little factories along the little streams" or powered by 
waterwheels, steam, or beet juice. 

The Ford Motor Company's board of directors named Henry Ford II 
president on September21, 1945. One of his first acts, in early October, was to 
fire Harry Bennett. Then, on November 5, he turned Fordlandia and Belterra, 
valued at nearly $8 million, with $20 trillion invested in them, over to the 
Brazilian government for $244,200 — which covered the amount the company 
owed its plantation workers under \argas 's laws guaranteeing severance pay. 

HENRYFORD TOOK Edsel's death hard. The carmaker had taunted his son 
during his last years, as he wasted away from what is now called Zollinger- 
Ellison syndrom, stomach tumors that overproduce corroding acid. Ford told 
Edsel that his symptoms were caused by his Crosse Pointe "high living," by 
what he ate, or didn't eat, how he chewed, what he drank, and when he 
exercised. Shortly after Edsel died, Ford told the wife of an employee, as they 
wandered around Greenfield Milage, that he knew that "in life, he and Edsel had 
not always understood each other and at times could not see eye to eye." But 
Ford, the perfecter of mechanical reproduction, believed in spiritual 
reproduction, that is, reincarnation, and he hoped that "before too long, he and 
Edsel would be together again" and that "there would be better understanding 



and they cou]d_continue working together."— 




Ruins of the sawmill at Iivn Mountain in the Upper Peninsula. 



Ford's health declined rapidly. He spent more and more time in Greenfield 
Milage, as well as in some of the other towns and mills he owned throughout 
Michigan. But even before Henry II began to unload Ford's village industries, 
company officials, trying to consolidate operations to make wartime production 
more efficient, had quietly closed two of his favorites. Both were located near 
his summer home, on the shore of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula: 
Pequarrring, which Henry purchased in 1923, and Alberta, which he had 
constructed from scratch in 1936, around the time that he and Edsel approved 
the creation of Belterra. 

Though the company increasingly distanced itself fromits controversial 
founder — for more than half a century, Ford Motors would rarely mention 
Henry in its advertising — many in the Upper Peninsula continued to invoke 
Ford's name. "Everybody is calling our village a ghost town," said one 
Pequaming resident in 1942, after the company began to remove equipment from 



its mill. Yet its residents still held out hope. "As long as there's a Henry Ford, 
Pequaming will still be here."— 

Ford did visit Pequaming once more, in the summer after Edsel's passing. No 
one in the company told him that the mill had been shut down, so he was 
saddened to leam that the town's clapboard houses had been boarded up and 
its saw stilled. Ford walked around the village and talked with a few of its 
remaining families. Just a lew years earlier more than four hundred people called 
Pequaming home. Now only a handful of its seventy-four houses were 
occupied. Its school had been a special source of pride for Ford, reminiscent of 
his own boyhood single-room schoolhouse. But that day all he saw was a "shell 
of walls and floors," its desks sold off and its doors padlocked. The town's 
caretaker asked if he wanted to go in. Ford said no. He "preferred to remember it 
as it was with the sound of children's voices." 




Ruins of Pequaming sawmill . 



The Pequaming mill whistle blew one last time in 1947, an old-timer thinks 
she remembers, to markFord's death. 



EPILOGUE 

STILL WAITING FOR HENRY FORD 

WHEN THE FORD MOTOR COMPANYABANDONED ITS AMAZON 
holdings in November 1945, many of its workers didn't know the Americans 
were leaving until the day they boarded ship and embarked down the Tapajos . 
"Goodbye, we're going back to Michigan," said the wife of Fordlandia's last 
manager to her nanny, America Lobato. "They didn't take anything with them, 
they just left, like that," Lobato recalled. 

In Belterra, the departure was just as quick Workers from the rubber 
nurseries, some of whomhad learned bud-grafting techniques from James Weir, 
were assembled and told that both plantations were being turned overto the 
Brazilian government's Instituto Agronomico do Norte, headed by Felisberto 
Camargo. A progressive agronomist, Camargo believed that the rational 
application of science, technology, and hygiene could bring about a peaceful, 
satisfied world — a view obviously related to Henry Ford's earlier technological 
optimism. Yet henceforth the agent of that application would be not an 
individual or a private corporation but a government organization of the kind 
Camargo worked for. 

In Fordlandia, Camargo pulled up most of the rubber trees closest to the 
town, instead planting jute, cacao, and other raqjerimental crops and grazing 
humpbacked, floppy-eared cattle imported fromlndia. Fordlandia, he said in a 
report to the United Nations, was an "utter failure" due to "blank ignorance" 
and the refusal to "test its theories by experiment." But Camargo did credit 
Fordlandia with being the "true cradle of the technique of double grafting," 
which, while unable to save the plantation, had benefited others . "Above all," 
the Brazilian agronomist said, the place was an "object lesson in applied science 
and a proof of human capacity in the face of a demanding and ill-understood 
task on the largest scale." In Belterra, by the time the company left, Ford 
workers had planted thirty thousand acres of land with about two million rubber 
trees that were crown grafted and thus, finally, resistant to leaf blight. Camargo 
forecast that this one plantation would soon yield annually about a third as 
much rubber as all the Amazon did at the height of the boom He also hoped 
that its large stocks of clones and hybrids could be sold to Goodyear and 
Firestone plantations, with the profits invested back into projects to develop 
the region.- 



But though Belteira's twice-grafted trees were running sap, they couldn't 
compete with the low-cost latex that was flooding the world market following 
Japan's defeat in the war. America's revived auto industry was either buying its 
rubber from recaptured Malaysian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese plantations or 
synthesizing it from petroleum, now affordable as a result of Franklin Delano 
Roosevelt's 1945 deal with King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, who traded military 
protection for the cheap oil that fueled America's postwar economic expansion. 
Yet it wasn't just low-cost or synthetic latex that foiled Camargo's plans to 
continue the work started by Ford. 

Camargo, an appointee of Getulio Vargas, understood it as his taskto 
increase the Amazon's agricultural output as well as to overturn its "semi- 
feudal" social structure. He proposed that the government support the creation 
of tapper cooperatives and help them sell their latex on the international market, 
thus bypassing parasitical middlemen and ending once and for all the "most 
irrational exploitation of man and natural resources" — the very system that Ford 
so many years ago had promised to do away with. But once the war was over, 
Vargas's conservative opponents staged a coup and removed himfrompower. 
In the Amazon, old-guard merchants and traders, having waited out Ford, 
Vargas, and World War n, regrouped and went on the offensive. They lobbied 
Rio to stop subsidizing plantation rubber and reduce its assistance for health 
care, education, and other social services that threatened to undemiine their 
power. Claiming there were millions of untapped wild rubber trees throughout 
the jungle, they said that the best way to revive the latex economy was to go 
back to the way things used to be, to forget about cultivating Hevea and paying 
wages and return to a reliance on "independent" — that is, indebted — tappers. 
Not content with having outlasted Henry Ford, the rubber barons wanted 
Belterra to be broken up into small lots and sold off— 

Belterra remained intact for the time being, yet the rubber merchants and 
traders got much of what they wanted. Camargo was eventually trans ferred out 
of the Amazon to a post in Rio and the federal government shifted its subsidies 
directly to rubber merchants, in effect reviving the old debt system that had 
ruled the region during the boom But having won the skimish against 
Camargo, the region's old rubber oligarchy lost a larger war. In May 1951, the 
first latex shipment from Singapore arrived in the Brazilian port of Santos, 
produced from trees that were the direct descendants of the seeds Henry 



Wickham sent to Kew Gardens exactly seventy-five years earlier. Brazil has ever 
since relied on imported latex to meet its rubber needs.^ 

In the 1950s, Fordlandia and Belterra were abandoned a second time, passed 
fromone government agency to another, each in turn less committed to their 
management and upkeep. Some families moved out, others moved in. Camargo's 
"object lesson" in large-scale, industrial agricultural science reverted to an 
archipelago of small, dispersed hamlets where peasants, many of themfonner 
Ford workers, cultivated plots of land among the derelict rubber stands, then 
selling the fruits, vegetables, and other forest products in local markets. 

IT WOULD BE tempting to read the story of Fordlandia and Belterra as a 
parable of anogance, just one in a long line of failed bids to press man's will on 
the storied Amazon. But the parable is not quite right. Other would-be jungle 
conquerors tended to be motivated by the sublime vastness ofthe Amazon 
itself, entranced with the idea of taming its wildness. The "sociologist 
manufacturer," though, had his sights on a more formidable challenge. Ford, the 
man who in the early 1910s helped unleash the power of industrialismto 
revolutionize human relations, spent most ofthe rest of his life trying to put the 
genie back into the bottle, to contain the disruption he himself let loose, only to 
be continually, inevitably thwarted. Bom more frompolitical frustration at home 
than from the need to acquire control over yet another raw material abroad, 
Fordlandia represents in crystalline form the utopianismthat powered Fordism 
— and by extension Americanism. It reveals the faith that a drive toward greater 
efficiency could be controlled and managed in such a way as to bring balance to 
the world and that technology itself, without the need for government planning, 
could solve whatever social problems arose fromprogress's advance. 
Fordlandia is indeed a parable of anogance. The arrogance, though, is not that 
Henry Ford thought he could tame the Amazon but that he believed that the 
forces of capitalism, once released, could still be contained. 




Ruins of Fotdlandia s powerhouse . 



Those unfettered forces are most visible in Manaus, about three hundred 
miles west of Santarem. Once the gilded epitome of a rubber-boom excess, 
Manaus after the bust became a "city of the past," as the Washington Post 
observed, with the drop in latex prices "acting mare slowly but as surely as the 
ashes of \esuvius in Pompeii."- The city revived only in the late 1960s, when 
Brazil's military regime decreed it a free-trade zone. Exempt from import tariffs, 
Manaus became Brazil's national emporium Cargo ships arrived at its deepwater 
port from the United States, Europe, and Asia to unload consumer goods. In 
1969, the New York Times was reporting that a "feverish prosperity" had 
returned, as Brazilians fromRio, Sao Paulo, and other points south took 
advantage of improved, subsidized air flight, flying into the city to purchase 
duty-free toys, fans, radios, air conditioners, and television sets. At the same 
time, the military government provided subsidies and reduced export taxes to 
stimulate industry, turning the city into one of the world's first brand-name 
assembly zones — similar to the Mexican maquilas that were then beginning to 
press against the the southern border of the United States. Today, Manaus 's 



industrial parks are home to about a hundred corporate plants, including Honda, 
Yamaha, Sony, Nokia, Philips, Kodak, Samsung, and Sanyo. In 1999, Harley- 
Davidson opened its first offshore factory in the city. Qllette has its largest 
South American facility here. When a consumer in Latin America purchases a 
DVD player, cell phone, TV bicycle, or motorcycle, there is a good chance it was 
assembled in the middle of the world's largest tropical forest.— 

With the highest population growth rate in Brazil, Manaus has gone from 
less than 200,000 people in the mid-1960s to nearly 3,000,000 residents today. 
The city bursts out of the Amazon like a perverse Oz, steadily eating away the 
surrounding emerald foliage. like many other Third World cities, Manaus is 
plagued by rising poverty and crime, child prostitution, gridlocked traffic, 
pollution, and poor health care. There is no sewage plant in the city, and its 
waste flows untreated into the Rio Negro. Manaus accounts for 6 percent of 
Brazil's total manufacturing, and provides about a hundred thous and jobs . Yet 
no matter how dynamic its export sector, the city can't possibly give 
employment to all the migrants who travel from the rural Amazon and beyond, 
desperate for work. On flights in, visitors can see the luxury condominiums that 
rise high along the river's sandy banks and, pressed up against them, low-lying 
slums built on wobbly stilts to protect against river flooding, a dramatic 
landscape of inequality in one of the most unequal countries in the world. It 
makes the distance that separated the homes of American managers from those 
of Brazilians in Fordlandia negligible in comparison.- 

Cities like Manaus, based on the assembly of corporate brand-name 
products, are the true heirs of Ford's legacy. Their economies are made possible 
by a process if not started than at least perfected by Ford's factory lines, that is, 
by the breaking up of industrial production into a series of reducible, routinized, 
and reproducible parts. Ford, of course, imagined his industrial method as 
leading to greater social cohesion. In his more Utopian moments, he envisioned 
a world in which industry and agriculture could exist in hamiony, with factories 
providing seasonal labor for fanners and industrial markets for agricultural 
products like soybeans. It's an easy vision to mock, especially considering the 
bmtality and dehumanizing discipline that reigned at the River Rouge. Yet actual 
Fordismat its most vigorous albeit short-lived stage did result in a kind of 
holism, where the extraction and processing of raw materials, integrated 
assembly lines, working-class populations, and consumer markets created 



vibrant economies and robust middle classes. Anchoring it all was a belief that 
decent pay would lead to increased sales. Yet even as Ford was preaching his 
gospel of "high wages to create large markets," Fordism as an industrial method 
was making the balanced, whole world Ford longed for impossible to achieve. 

Today, the link between production and consumption, and between good 
pay and big markets, has been broken, invalidated by the global extension of 
the logic of the assembly line. Harley -Davidson, for instance, does not make 
motorcycles fromstart to finish in Manaus but rather assembles bikes from 
parts manufactured elsewhere, which it then sells in the Brazilian market. Sony 
likewise uses free-trade zones (not just Manaus but Colon in Panama, Ushuaia 
in southern Argentina, and Iquique in northern Chile) as low-tax entrepots into 
national markets. The final confection of the product in these cities is a 
formality, done to exempt the product fromimport taxes. In Manaus, Sony puts 
together TVs (over a million a year) and audio equipment from component parts 
made in countries with even lower labor costs and certainly less labor 
protection than in Brazil. 

In other words, there is no relationship between the wages Harley-Davidson 
pays to make its products and the profits it receives fromselling them Instead 
of Ford's virtuous circuit of high wages and decent benefits generating 
expanding markets, a vicious one now rules: profits are derived not from well- 
paid workers affluent enough to buy what they have made but from driving 
prices as low as they can go; this in turn renders good pay and humane benefits 
not only unnecessary for keeping the economy going but impossible to 
maintain, since the best, and at times the only, place to cut production costs is 
labor. The result is a race to the bottom, a systemof perpetual 
deindustrialization whereby corporations — including, most dramatically, the 
Ford Motor Company itself — bow before a global economy that they once 
mastered, moving manufacturing abroad in order to reduce labor costs just to 
survive. 

Ford's River Rouge employees were once some of the highest-paid 
industrial workers in the world. But they now make a fraction of what they did 
three decades ago and, with Ford's continued existence as a company hanging 
by a slender thread, are continually asked for bigger and bigger givebacks. In 
2007, the UAW, in an effort to convince Ford to make its new "world market" 
model Fiesta in the United States, offered to cut starting wages by half, to less 



than fifteen dollars an hour. It didn't work In June 2008, the company 
announced that it would set up production in Mexico, where the union there 
agreed to cut wages for new hires to half of the prevailing salary of $4.50 an 
hour. In order to stay competitive with China, some factories have cut hourly 
wages to as low as $1.50 an hour. Poverty is not just a consequence but a 
necessary component of this new system of pennanent austerity. In Ford's day, 
high wages, aside from their role in creating consumer markets, were needed to 
build a reliable labor force. Today, misery plays that role. "I guarantee you that 
if we advertise for 2,000 workers," admits Juan Jose SosaArreola, the Mexican 
union leader who helped negotiate wage cuts in order to convince Ford to make 
the Fiesta in Mexico, "10,000 people are going to show up." Every year, the 
same kind of desperation pushes tens of thousands of migrants into Manaus 
— and millions into cities like it across the globe. In the 1920s, Ford thought that 
the "flow" of history was moving away fromcities. But in 2008, more than half 
of the earth's inhabitants were reported to be living in cities, a billion ofthem 
— a sixth of the world's population — in slums 7- 

hi the lower Amazon, then, along about a three-hundred-mile axis, runs the 
history of modem capitalism. On one end is Fordlandia, a monument to the 
promise that was early-twentieth-century industrialization. "Ford built us a 
hospital; he paid his workers well and gave themgood houses," a Fordlandia 
resident told a Los Angeles Times reporter in 1993. "It would be nice if the 
company would come back." On the other is Manaus, a city plagued by the kind 
of urban problems Ford thought he could transcend but whose very existence 
owes much to the systemhe pioneered. Trying to reproduce America in the 
Amazon has yielded to outsourcing America to the Amazon.^ 

AS MANAUS CONTINUES its outward sprawl, Fordlandia, too, has 
experienced an influxof new migrants. They largely come not from the 
northeast, as Ford's men did eighty years ago, but fromthe south, fromthe 
Amazon state of Mato Grosso, arriving along an eleven-hundred-mile dirt 
highway that is an impassible mud trench for much of the rainy season. Many 
of Fordlandia 's recent settlers raised cattle in Mato Grosso, a trade they 
brought with them to their new home. Ford's opinion that cows were the 
crudest, most inefficient machines in the world is not unjustified considering the 
amount of land and energy it takes to keep one alive. Between 2000 and 2005, 
cattle ranching accounted for 60 percent of deforestation, and today Brazil is 



the world's largest exporter of cows, with its 180,000,000-head herd equaling the 
size of its population. At least a thousand of themcan be found at Fordlandia, 
grazing along the riverbank and on what was Fordlandia 's golf course. The 
town's tennis court has yielded to cattle stalls. But mostly the cows roam and 
ruminate on the hillsides previously planted with rubber, now converted to 
pastureland.2 

Rather than marking a revival of Fordlandia, the new settlers signal a fresh 
wave of despoliation, part of a larger shift in the balance of power between man 
and nature. Many have observed the ironies involved in Ford's varied efforts to 
hannonize industry and agriculture, be it in the woods of the Upper Peninsula, 
along the waterways of southern Michigan, or in Appalachian Tennessee 
^Uey. But the most profound irony is currently on display at the veiy site of 
Ford's most ambitious attempt to realize his pastoralist vision, hr the Tapajos 
valley, three prominent elements of Ford's vision — lumber, which he hoped to 
profit from while at the same time finding ways to conserve nature; roads, which 
he believed would knit small towns together and create sustainable markets ; 
and soybeans, in which he invested millions, hoping that the industrial crop 
would revive rural life — have become the primary agents of the Amazon 's ruin, 
not just of its flora and fauna but of many of its communities. 

There's a new commercial sawmill in operation at Fordlandia, and though its 
technology is not much improved from what John Rogge and Matt Mulrooney 
had available eighty years ago, it's had much more success at exporting wood 
than Ford did. The mill's owner, Raymundo Donato, is amused when asked if he 
faces the kinds of problems that so vexed Ford, from termites and wood that is 
too hard ortoo soft to the valley's warp-inducing humidity. There are uses now 
for soft wood that didn't exist back then, he says. The kapok ceiba is one of the 
Tapajos 's tallest trees, rising high above the forest canopy, but Fordlandia 's 
sawyers considered its wood to be worthless pulp. Today, though, the majestic 
tree can be shredded and then pressed ignobly into particleboard. Many of 
Ford's other problems had to do with the fact that his wood sat at the plantation 
for weeks, often months, vulnerable to the weather until a big enough lot could 
be assembled to make a shipment back to the United States worth the cost of 
transportation. Donato only has to send batches of lumber a few hours to the 
town of Itaituba, where the boards are dry kilned, strapped with metal bands to 
prevent warping, and then floated downriver to be sold to one of the big timber 



multinationals. 

Donato employs about 125 local residents and produces graded timber for 
export to the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. His pemits are all in 
order, he insists, and he strictly follows environmental law, using techniques of 
selective timbering that allow the forest to reproduce. Most of the thousands of 
small mills that exist throughout the forest, however, operate illegally, and 
logging is responsible for about 6 percent of deforestation. In early 2008, 
satellite imagery showed a shocking increase in the rate of rain forest clear- 
cutting. "Never before have we detected such a high deforestation rate," said 
Glberto Camara, head of the National Institute for Space Research. The world 
was reminded that it had already lost 20 percent of the Amazon's 1.6 million 
square miles, and if the pace continued, 40 percent of what was left would be 
gone by 2050. In response, the federal government launched an operation to 
crack down on illegal logging. Woefully understaffed in relation to the size of 
the territory to be covered, government agents decided to focus on key towns 
or cities where contraband wood comes in from the jungle to be "laundered" 
and transfonned, by bribery or faked paperwork, into legitimate export cargo, 
sold to multinationals like Japan's Eidai Corporation, China's Tianjin Fortune 
Timber, and the New Orleans-based Robinson Lumber Company, which enjoy 
the patina of legitimacy even though they operate at just a degree of separation 
from the lawlessness that plagues much of the Amazon's lumber industry.— 

Tailandia, a fast-growing city of sixty-five thousand people located two 
hours south of Belem, is one such potential choke point, home to dozens of 
small mills and the offices of a number of large timber multinationals. Logging, 
legal or not, provides needed income to many in the state of Para, and in 
Tailandia an estimated 70 percent of the city's population make their living off 
wood. So when inspectors arrived in town in February 2008, they were met by 
thousands of protesters, who burned tires, erected barricades, and took a 
number of government officials hostage. Rio sent in reinforcements, hundreds 
of heavily armed police, to retake the town. They restored order, confiscating 
five hundred trackloads of wood valued at $1.5 million and closing down 
dozens of unlicensed mills. Federal agents also destroyed hundreds of illegal 
ovens used to make bootleg charcoal, which is shipped to southern Brazil, 
where it is used to fire blast furnaces that smelt pig iron. This aspect of the 
illegal lumber industry is particularly devastating to the Amazon's future since 



these charcoal ovens burn young trees too small to be milled — the forest's most 
reproductively healthy and active generation. Tailandia's ovens alone consume 
tens of thousands of saplings a month.— 

The charcoal industry also has honific human consequences. In December 
2006, a Bloomberg News investigation found that much Amazonian charcoal 
was made by starving, disease-ridden slaves. Lured to the region with promises 
of good-paying work, whole families were held captive in camps deep in the 
jungle, given polluted, parasite-ridden water to drink and miserable food to eat 
and forced to sleep in windowless corrugated tin shacks, unbearably hot on 
their own but even more so owing to their closeness to the kilns . Children were 
left to play in the mud, living with malaria, dying from tuberculosis and other 
illnesses. The Amazon is today home to an estimated twenty thousand modem 
slaves, "people who have absolutely no economic value except as cheap labor 
under the most inhumane conditions imaginable," says Marcelo Campos, an 
official with the Brazilian Ministry of Labor. The charcoal is used to make pig 
iron, which is exported to the United States to be turned into steel for consumer 
products manufactured by some of the world's biggest corporations, including 
the Ford Motor Company. This modem fonnof jungle slavery is, as Campos 
points out, a "key part of the globalized, export-oriented econorrry Brazil thrives 

..12* 

on. 

By some estimates, logging is a two-billion-dollar-a-year industry in Para, 
with wood going for $275 a cubic meter, or about $1,300 a tree. It's a high-stakes 
business, and violence has become an elemental part of the trade. In 2005 in 
eastern Para, gunmen hired by loggers killed Sister Dorothy Stang, a Maryknoll 
nun from the United States who had been working with local rural communities 
to oppose illicit logging, hi early 2008, just southeast of where Stang was 
murdered, Errrival Barbosa Machado was shot to death as he was leaving his 
house, probably for providing infonnation to officials about criminal logging. A 
few years ago, gangs of anned loggers marauded through lands claimed by the 
Rio Pardo hidians, chasing themaway, sacking valuable trees, and leaving 
desolation in their wake. Between 1971 and 2004, 772 activists working to either 
defend human rights or slow deforestation have been executed in Para. Only 
three cases have been brought to trial. 

ROADS, TOO, WHICH Ford promoted, have accelerated the devastation of 
the Amazon. With the announcement that the Ford Motor Company planned to 



establish a rubber plantation in the largely roadless jungle came much 
speculation in the local press that it would build major highways linking interior 
areas like Mato Grosso to ports and markets. Such projects never materialized, 
though plantation workers in both Fordlandia and Belterra laid out dozens of 
miles of roadbed, both to open up the estates ' hinterlands for planting and 
logging and to allow staff members to go on short car trips to escape boredom 
But in the years since Getulio Virgas traveled fromBelterra to Manaus to give 
his "March to the West" speech, road construction has increased rapidly. In the 
1960s, the government built a 1,200-mile highway connecting Belemto the new 
capital of Brasilia, and the 3,000-mile Trans -Amazonian Highway was 
inaugurated in 1972, with the hope of promoting migration out of the drought- 
plagued northeast into the less populated rain forest. 

Road building in the Amazon has created what social ecologists have 
described as a destructive "feedback cycle." Migrants move in and land values 
rise. Often, the construction of the road and the arrival of farmers, ranchers, 
loggers, speculators, and settlers bring disease to, and spark confrontation 
with, indigenous peoples. Always, the advance of roads puts sudden and rapid 
pressure on the local ecology. Forest is cleared, cattle are grazed, and crops are 
planted. Such activity fragments ecosystems — whose biological diversity 
depends on maintaining an extensive, uninterrupted mass of forest — into 
smaller and smaller sections, propelling the extinction of flora and fauna and 
increasing the risk of forest fires. The profits generated from the increased 
economic activity lead to additional road building, most of it illegal. Dirt spurs 
shoot off the main spine of the highway, creating a "fishbone effect" startlingly 
visible from the air. Meanwhile, poor settler farmers, enticed by the prospect of 
cheap, abundant land, quickly find that, once stripped of trees, the Amazon's 
soil becomes exhausted. So they push farther into the forest. And the process 
begins all over again. There are currently more than a hundred thousand miles 
of legal and illegal roads cutting through the Amazon, each at one time 
promising to bring prosperity and development but most often delivering 
bloodshed, displacement, impoverishment, and clear-cutting. 

The road that brings Mato G-osso migrants to Fordlandia, BR-163, 
continues northeast, eventually reaching its terminus in Santarem For much of 
the way, to the left on the northwest side of the highway, stands the Tapajos 
National Forest, which includes a good portion of the original Fordlandia 



concession. It's one of the Amazon's fust protected areas, over a trillion acres 
of relatively intact forest and home to a number of indigenous communities. It 
was here that, starting in 2000, Daniel Nepstad, a scientist affiliated with the 
Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, covered 2.2 acres of land with 
a clear plastic tarp for five years to simulate a prolonged dry period. The results 
of the experiment suggested that the kind of multiyear droughts that the 
Amazon has witnessed of late, along with a general decrease in precipitation 
during the rainy season — which many identify as an effect of the deforestation 
— will greatly hinder the jungle's ability to reproduce. Some trees showed a 
stubborn resilience, drawing water from more than forty feet in the soil. But the 
soil eventually dried out, and after four years the death rate of large canopy 
trees, those that reach up to 150 feet into the open sun, jumped from 1 percent 
to 9 percent. All trees demonstrated a significant slowing of growth, which 
means that if the drying trend continues, not only will the forest be shorter and 
stunted but its ability to absorb carbon, which plays an important role in 
cooling the earth's temperature, will be curtailed. "This experiment provides 
researchers with a peek into the future of this majestic forest," Nepstad says.— 

THE FUTURE CAN be seen quite clearly on the other side of BR-163. 
Pushing against the road is what environmentalists call the Amazon's "soy 
frontier," open land clear-cut for pastures or plantations, dotted with tufts of 
trees and the occasional ramshackle hamlet. Ford spent millions of dollars trying 
to find new uses for soy, and his dream has been more than realized: today's 
corporate agribusiness is Ford's "chemurgy" on steroids. Soy can now be 
found in an array of mass-produced products, from animal feed, pet food, and 
baby fomiula to fast food and biofuels. Over the last two decades, industry 
scientists have gone beyond anything that Green-field Milage chemists could 
have imagined, as genetically modified soy can be found in about 60 percent of 
all processed foods, most often as oil or filler. As a result, growing European, 
Asian, and US demand has turned Brazil into the second-largest producer of 
soy.W 

Soy is one of the Amazon's leading causes of deforestation. In one year 
alone, between August 2003 and August 2004, planters cleared over 10,000 
square miles of the Amazon, roughly the size of Belgium Most of this planting 
is in the southern scrublands ofthe Amazon basin, in the state of'Mato Grosso. 
But in recent years, soy has crept north to the Tapajos, and as it does, it 



disrupts many more lives at a much quicker pace than does logging, 
notwithstanding all the cruelty and coercion that accompanies that trade. 
Where logging displaces settlements in scattershot fashion, soy devours 
communities more inexorably, displacing fanning and ranching families with as 
much disregard as it fells trees. Because the crop is cultivated on large-scale, 
mechanized plantations, it doesn't provide much employment for those 
uprooted by its march. At the same time, the extension of monoculture squeezes 
out the planting of vegetables and fruits produced for local use, as land is more 
profitably used to grow soy than, say, papaya and so dramatically raises the 
price of what crops — more and more imported from outside the region — do get 
to market. 

In 2002, the multinational agroindustry giant Cargill, hoping to induce the 
federal government to pave BR-163 — and thereby make it easier for the 
company to export its Mato Grosso harvest — spent $20 million to build a 
granary warehouse and port in Santarem, with a protruding conveyor running to 
three deepwater chutes designed to fill the holds of the largest cargo ships with 
soybeans .- Santaremhad until recently largely remained a sleepy provincial 
town not that different from when the poet Elizab eth Bishop wrote about her 
"golden evening" on the Tapajos. That changed after Cargill built its tenninal. 
Speculators and developers moved in, and the price of a hectare (2.47 acres) of 
land skyrocketed, from $25 in 2000 to more than $500 eight years later. Many 
poor fanners or ranchers were unable to resist such a payoff. Selling their land, 
they moved into Santarem proper, whose infrastructure was unprepared to 
handle the influx. This migration led not just to shanty sprawl but to a dramatic 
increase in the cost ofbasic grains, fruits, vegetables, and meat. With over three 
hundred square miles of surrounding farmland now used for soy, there's much 
less room, and considerably less financial incentive, to grow oranges, 
pineapples, manioc, and greens or to graze cows and pigs.— 

Henry Ford placed great hope in soybeans, projecting that the crop would 
provide a much needed financial lifeline to fanning communities struggling to 
survive as industrialization pushed agricultural prices lower and lower. His 
promotion of soy was part of his efforts to balance fannand factory so that 
mechanization would not destroy community but fulfill it. But in Beltena 
— Ford's last sustained effort to strike such a balance — soy has wiped off the 
map the dozens of small villages that had spread out from the center of the 



town over the last couple of decades and, along with them, the schools, 
churches, and family networks that are the heart of any community. 

Belterra stands just off BR-163, about an hour south of Santarem, on a flat 
plateau perfect for mechanized soybean cultivation. In 2001, hardly any soy was 
grown in its boundaries. Today, tens of thousands of Belterra 's flatland 
hectares are planted with soy. It is expensive to cut down virgin jungle. The 
fonner president of Cargill's Brazilian operations told me that it costs about 
$1,500 to clear one hectare, which means that a plantation of, say, five hundred 
hectares would take years to reap a profit, even considering the high price of 
soy. This expense is why growers like to move into land already cleared for 
cattle pastures and small farms (often pushing fanners and ranchers to initiate 
another cycle of deforestation). It is also what makes Belterra, in addition to its 
level soil, so attractive. Ford's men already did most of the work.- 




The soy jivntier: Belterra. 

Until recently, stories told about the Amazon tended to emphasize the 
jungle's unconquerable enormity, its immense indifference to man's puny 
ambitions, a plotline that captures well the history of Fordlandia. That has 
changed, of course. It's the forest that now appears frail, as Belterra vividly 



demonstrates. Nearly eight decades ago, Ford's men slipped and slid in the mud 
in their four-cylinder, 20-horsepower Model F tractors or 27-horsepower Model 
Ns — "iron mules" they were called — to prepare the land to plant rubber trees. 
Today, developers use Caterpillar D-9s or D-lls, orKomatsu D275s, treaded 
behemoths weighing as much as a hundred tons and running on up to 900 
horsepower to plow down those sane trees. They are outfitted with special 
cutting blades angled to push the felled wood to the right as the machine 
advances. The protruding part of the blade is spiked, letting operators stab and 
twist the trunks ofobstinate trees. At the rear of the dozers are mounted 
"rippers ," multishank hydraulic plows to pull up trunks and break rocks . Once 
the downed trees are gathered in a pile with a backhoe, the same ground is 
passed over once again, this time by two tractors tethered together by a heavy 
chain weighed down by a rolling steel ball that yanks out root systems as it is 
dragged forward. Soy itself does its part in forcing the jungle to yield. 
Domesticated in temperate Asia, the bean is not native to Brazil, much less is it 
suited to the hot and humid Amazon. But advances in insecticides, pesticides, 
fungicides, and phosphate-heavy fertilizer, along with the creation of crossbred 
"tropical soy," have allowed Amazon growers not just one crop but two a year. 
And Brazil has just permitted farmers to use genetically engineered seeds — a 
logical extension of Fordisminto the cellular structure — making possible the 
spread of soy ever deeper into the rain forest. 

Some Belterra residents tried to hold out. But they found themselves, as 
described in a report in National Geographic, "encircled by an encroaching 
wasteland, as whining chain saws and raging fires consumed the trees right up 
to the edge of their land. Their yards were overrun with vipers, bees, and 
rodents escaping the apocalypse, and when tractors began spraying the cleared 
fields, toxic clouds of pesticides drifted into their homes." Their animals died. 
Family members became ill. Joao de Sousa has raised cattle for over four 
decades on his small ranch. His land is now an island in a sea of soy, as all of 
his forrrer neighbors have sold their farms and moved out. "They never put a 
dyke up," Sousa complained of the new soy planters. "Chemicals went into the 
brook where the cows drank." He's lost 88 of his 120-head cowherd as a result. 
"Once when I was by the field and they were spraying, I started to feel odd and 
I collapsed on the track" Elsewhere, in what its former residents now describe 
as the "ghost village" of Qeba Pacoval, some families at first refused to sell 



their land. But hired gunmen set fire to their homes, driving them out. Union 
activists tried to organize against intimidation, only to be barraged by death 
threats.^ 

SPARED THE DESTRUCTION suffered by surrounding villages, Belterra's 
town center still looks much the way it did when Archie Johnston and Curtis 
Pringle built it, with white-and-green Cape Cod bungalows set back from 
straight streets, their front yards planted with neat flower gardens. And just as 
Ford, buffeted by the changes that swirled around him, looked to the past for 
solace, Belterra's municipal authorities, practically swallowed up by soy, have 
turned to history for relief. In recent years, they have tried to promote their town 
as a tourist attraction, putting out a brochure recounting its unique role as one 
of Henry Ford's most remote outposts, whose architecture "reminds one of a 
small American town in the Midwest in the 1920s ." "The local people," it reads, 
"still preserve the custom of having gardens around their houses," because the 
"Ford Company gave prizes for the best garden." The brochure also calls 
attention to the well-maintained "House Number One," a spacious home with 
large rooms and a privileged view from the balcony. This "house of dreams" 
was "designed especially for the creator of the Project: Henry Ford." The 
industrialist was all set to travel to Belten'a, the guidebook says, but forty days 
before the planned visit Edsel died. The trip was canceled, and "locals wonder if 
Henry Ford had come, then perhaps he would never have abandoned Belterra." 

Backup the Tapajos at Fordlandia, removed for now from soy's onslaught, 
palpable neglect blankets the town, despite its recent bustle. Contrasted with 
the broad, well-kept streets on display in old photographs of the place found in 
the Ford Archives, many of its roads are today crowded by scrub and spindly 
trees, their branches overhanging potholed macadam In one photo, concrete 
crosses line the settlement's cemetery in neat rows, with shorn hills and open 
skies in the background. Now the burial ground is overrun by forest and weeds, 
its crucifixes off-kilter. A clutch of fallen crosses, most dating from the 1930s, 
their inscriptions long worn off, have been gathered up and propped against a 
tree in the center of the graveyard. At Albert Kahn's decrepit hospital, the floor 
is strewn with patient records from 1945, the year Ford turned the town over to 
the Brazilian government, though the building has been used as a clinic 
periodically over the last couple of decades. 



America Lobato in front of her paintings of rubber trees and the water tower . 
Some residents have tried to keep up appearances. As in Belterra, in front of 
many of the still inhabited bungalows, neat patches of rose bushes, tangerine 
and peach trees, along with Spanish plums and palm fruits, accent the town's 
elegiac quality. And inevitably at some point in any conversation, residents will 
point out that Ford never visited Fordlandia, even though he kept promising 
that he would. "Fordlandia was born and died expecting a visit fromits patron," 
writes yet another Brazilian travel guide. Its inhabitants, the guide says, keep 
"one of the rooms of the best house in the American neighborhood in a 
permanent state of preparation." 



Gven the waste, slavery, and ruination visited on much of the Amazon 
today their longing is understandable. Henry Ford's vision of an Emersonian 
arcadia rising from the jungle canopy, though preposterous, now seems 
relatively benign. The dream lingers in the sights and sounds of Ford's cidades 
fantasmas, ghost cities, haunting reminders of the early twentieth century's 
promise of humane development. In Belterra, in the building where Henry Ford 
never slept, the town has recently installed a "Henry Ford" library and 
organized a "Henry Ford" children's choir. And the factory whistle still blows 
four times a day, summoning workers who no longer live there to a plantation 
that has long been shuttered.— 

The residents of Fordlandia and Belterra are still waiting for Henry Ford. 

-Manaus is called a free-trade zone, but there is little "free trade" about it, at 
least in the way that term implies minimal government intervention in the market. 
With its remote jungle location deep in the continent's heartland, the city as a 
manufacturing center could not survive without significant government 
subsidies, needed to offset the high cost of transportation. 

-When it opened, the River Rouge not only made its own pig iron in 
furnaces heated with coal coke but recycled coke gas to make chemical 
byproducts, ore dust to make machine borings, and slag to make cement; today, 
the Ford Motor Company no longer malts its own pig iron, having long ago 
sold off its famed River Rouge foundry to a Russian company. 

-BR-163 remains unpaved for little more than half its run fromCuiaba, the 
capital of Mato Gtosso — where most of Brazil's soy is grown — to Santarem 
And in its current dirt and mud state, even during the dry season, it's too rough 
for major corporations like Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, and the 
Brazilian-owned Maggi Group to use. They instead ship their soy overland 
about 1,200 niles south to one of Brazil's two major Atlantic ports or track it 
about 500 niles northwest on a paved two-lane highway to Porto ^lho, load it 
on barges, and float it down the Madeira and Amazon rivers. Once blacktopped, 
the highway will be a quick and cheap way for landlocked Mato Grosso planters 
to get their product to Santarem's deepwater harbor, where it can be loaded on 
cargo ships and sent on its way. But environmentalists fear that an asphalt road 
will hasten the spread of soy, as well as logging and cattle ranching, deeper into 
the Amazon and quicken its destruction. 



-Belterra never sent much rubber back to Detroit, but soon its soy will be 
making its way into Ford cars. In July 2008, Cargill started construction in 
Chicago on a state-of-the-art factory designed to produce mass quantities of 
industrial-quality plastic made fromsoybeans, including soy shipped fromthe 
company's Santaremport. One of Cargill's customers is the Ford Motor 
Company, which plans to use the plastic in its 2009 Ford Escape ("Cargill Builds 
First Full-Scale BiOH Polyols Manufacturing Plant," Cargill press release, July 8, 
2008, www.cargill.conVnews/news_releases/080708_biohplant.html . 



NOTES 

Introduction: Nothing Is Wrong with Anything 

L "Police Protect Ford and Edison at N.Y Auto Show," Atlanta 
Constitution, January 11, 1928. 

2. Allan Nevins and Frank Ernest HilL Ford: Expansion and 
Challenge. 191 5-1933, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1957, pp. 
437-59; "Remarks," Time, January 16, 1928. 

3. "No 'Price War' for His Concern, Mr. Ford Insists," Christian 
Science Monitor, January 9, 1928; "Henry Ford Coming Today," New 
York Times, January 9, 1928; "Remarks," Time, January 16, 1928. 

4. "Ford Plans Plane Trip to Brazil Rubber Tract," Washington Post, 
January 10, 1928; "Ford Plans Brazil Flight," Los Angeles Times, January 
10, 1928; "Henry Ford's \byage," Washington Post, January 11, 1928; 
"Ford Met Marshall Here," New York Times, January 16, 1928; "Dr. Wise 
Proposes Inquiry on Jews," New York Times, January 9, 1928. 

5. "Ford to Continue Effort to Produce Aero at Car Price," 
Washington Post, March 4, 1928. 

6. "Ford Sees Hoover the Next President," New York Times, January 
10, 1928; "Ford Gets Big Area to Grow Rubber," New York Times, 
October 12, 1927. 

7. William N. McNairn and Marjorie McNairn, Quotations from the 
Unusual Henry Ford, Redondo Beach, Calif.: Quotamus Press, 1978, p. 
101. 

8. Arnold Hollriegel, "Ford in Brazil," Living Age, May 1932, p. 221, 
reprinted from the Berliner Tageblatt; Elaine Lourenco, "Americanos e 
caboclos: Encontros e desencontros emFordlandia e Belterra-PA," 
master's thesis, Universidad de Sao Paulo, 1999, p. 38; David Grann, 
"The Lost City of Z," New Yorker, September 19, 2005. 

9. "Ford Rubber," Time, October 24, 1927; "Fordlandia, Brazil," 
Washington Post, August 12, 1931. 

10 . See P H. Fawcett, Lost Trails, Lost Cities, New York Funk and 
Wagnalls, 1953, p. 267; Brian Fawcett, Ruins in the Sky, London: 
Hutchinson, 1958; and Peter Fleming, Brazilian Adventure, New York: 
Scribner's Sons, 1933. 

11. Aubrey Stuart, trans ., How Henry Ford Is Regarded in Brazil: 
Articles by Monteiro Lobato, Rio de Janeiro, 1926 (available in Yale's 
Sterling Library); Thomas Skid-more, "Brazil's American Illusions: From 
Dom Pedro II to the Coup of 1964," Luso-Brazilian Review 23 (Winter 
1986): 77. 

12 . Theodore Roosevelt, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, New 



York: Cooper Square Press, 2000, p. 217. See also Candice Millard, "The 
River of Doubt : " Theodore Roosevelt s Darkest Journey, New York: 
Doubleday, 2005; Francis Gow Smith, "The King of the Xingu "Atlanta 
Constitution, December 16, 1928. 

13 . John Hemming, Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon , 
London: Thames and Hudson, 2008, p. 203; Candace Slater, Entangled 
Edens: Visions of the Amazon, Berkeley: University of California Press, 

2002, p. 46; Susanna B. Hecht, 'The Last Unfinished Page of Genesis: 
Euclides da Cunha and the Amazon," Historical Geography 32 (2004): 
43-69. 

14 . Burden of Dreams, documentary, dir. Liess Blank, Flower Films, 
1982. 

15 . Jonathan Norton Leonard, The Tragedy of Henry Ford , New York: 
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1932, p. 108; "Sober Thoughts on Things and 
Kings," New York Times, April 27, 1930; "Life in Fordlandia!" Iron 
Mountain Daily News, May 18, 1932. 

16. Washington Post, September 5, 1928. 

17 . Kenneth Grubb, Amazon and the Andes, New York: Dial Press, 
1930, p. 14; A. Ogden Pierrot, "A Visit to Fordlandia," Rubber Age, April 
10, 1932. 

18 . http://www.cremesp.ora.br/7sileAcao~Rcvista~247 (accessed 
May 8, 2008). 

19 . Frederick UphamAdams, Conquest of the Tropics: The Story: Q f 
the Cmative Enterprises Conducted by the United Fruit Company, New 
York: Doubleday, Page, and Co., 1914, pp. 9, 114. 

20 . Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness, Cambridge: Harvard 
University Press, 1975, pp. 1-15; Harry Bernstein, "Some Inter-American 
Aspects of the Enlightenment," Latin America and the Enlightenment, 
ed. Arthur Whitakei; Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press, 1961, pp. 53 
-55. 

21 . "Ford Tire Plants Planned in Brazil," New York Times, November 
16, 1928; "The Ford Shutdown," Washington Post, September 18, 1922. 

22. National Archives, microfilm 1472, roll 40, RG59, 832.6176/58, 
Drew to State, February 14, 1930. 

23. Douglas Brinkley, Wheels for the World: Henry FojzI, His 
Company, and a Century ofPmgwss, 1903-2003, New York: Viking, 

2003, p. 232. 

Chapter 1: Under anAmerican Flag 

1. "Churchill Defends Rubber Restrictions," New York Times, March 
13, 1923; "Churchill Sarcastic over Debt Policy," New York Times, July 



20, 1924; Charles R. Whittlesey, Government Control of Crude Rubber: 
The Stevenson Plan, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1931; 
Austin Coates, The Commerce in Rubber: The First 250 Years, New 
York: Oxford University Press, 1987, pp. 205-64; Barry Machado, 
"Farquhar and Ford in Brazil: Studies in Business Expansion and Foreign 
Policy," PhD dissertation, Northwestern University, 1975, p. 274. 

2. "Hoover Contrasts Wheat and Rubber," New York Times, 
December 30, 1925; Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 205. 

3. "Rubber Manufacturers Discuss Supply Question," Wall Street 
Journal, February 28, 1923; "Rubber Men Record Protest to Britain," 
New York Times, February 28, 1923; Coates, Hie Commerce in Rubber, 
pp. 233, 232; Alfred Lief, Harvey Firestone: Free Man of Enterprise , 
New York: McGraw-Hill, 1951, pp.228, 231. 

4. Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 245. 

5. Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 201; Nevins and Hill, Ford, pp. 
396-97; Royal Davis, "Cycles in the Automobile Pneumatic Tire Renewal 
Market in the United States," Journal of the American Statistical 
Association, vol. 26, no. 173, Supplement: Proceedings of the American 
StatisticalAssociation (March 1931), pp. 10-19. 

6. Ford Bryan, Friends, Families, and Forays: Scenes from the Life 
and Times of Henry Ford, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2002, 
p. 247. 

7. Benson Ford Research Center (BFRC), accession 65, 
Reminiscences, E. G Liebold, ch. 10. 

S. lief, Harvey Firestone, p . 5 1 . 

9. BFRC, accession 285, box545, June 8, 1926, Raskob to Ford; 
BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, E G. Liebold, ch. 10. 

10 . BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, E. G. Liebold, ch. 10. 

J_L Warren Dean, Brazil and the Struggle for Rubber: A Study in 
Environmental History, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987, p. 
4. 

12 . E. Bradford Bums, "1910: Portrait of a Boom Town," Journal of 
Inter-American Studies 7 (July 1965): 410; "A Thousand Miles Up the 
Amazon," Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, March 1897; "Valley of the 
Amazon," New York Times, July 23, 1899; Brian Lewis, "The Queer Life 
and Afterlife of Roger Casement," Journal of the History of Sexuality 
14 (October 2005): 371; "Para and Manes Los Angeles Times, June 18, 
1899. 

13 . Hemming, Tree of Rivers , p. 202. 

14 . Jose Maria Ferreira de Castro, .4 Selva, Lisbon: Guimaraes 



Editores, 1991 (first published in 1930); Hemming, Tree of Rivers , pp. 203 
-5; Hecht, "The Last Unfinished Page of Genesis ." 

15 . Robert F. Murphy, "The Rubber Trade and the Mundurucu 
Indians," PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 1954, 71. 

16 . Murphy, "The Rubber Trade," p. 8. 

17 . Joe Jackson, The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, 
and the Seeds of Empire, New York: Viking, 2008. 

18 . J. T. Baldwin, "David B. Riker and Hevea brasiliensis: The Taking 
of Rubber Seeds Out of the Amazon," Economic Botany 22 (October 
-December 1968): 383; Dean, Struggle for Rubber, pp. 7, 13-28, 90, 177 
-80. 

19 . Hemming, Tree of Rivers , pp. 96-97. 
Chapter 2: The Cow Must Go 

J_. Roosevelt, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, p. 195. 

2. Leonard, The Tragedy of Hemy Ford , p. 120. 

3. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 141; David A. Hounshell, Emm 
the American System to Mass Production, 1800—1932: The 
Development of Manufacturing Technology in the United States, 
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984, pp. 10, 217-62. 

4. Robert Lacey, Ford: The Men and the Machine, Boston: Little, 
Brown, 1986, p. 109. 

5. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 155; Julian Street, Abroad at 
Home, New York: Century, 1914, pp. 93-94. 

6. Keith Sward, The Legend of Henry- Ford , New York: Rinehart, 1948, 
p. 37. 

7. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, pp. 159, 373; McNairn and 
McNairn, Quotations, p. 47. 

8. Lacey, Ford, p. 120; Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 174. 

9. Lacey, Ford, pp. 123-24. 

10 . Neil Baldwin, Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of 
Hate, New York: Public Affairs, 2001, p. 39. 

11. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, pp. 157-58, 275-78; Baldwin, 
Hemy Ford and the Jews, pp. 41-42. 

12 . Stephen Meyer 111, The Five Dollar Day: Labor Management 
and Social Contwl in the Ford Motor Company, 1 908- 1 92 1 , Albany: 
State University of New York Press, 1981, pp. 154-55; Lacey, Ford, pp. 
129-31. 

13 . Leonard, The Tragedy of Henry Ford , p. 108. 

14. Nevins and Hill, Ford, p. 604. 

15 . David L. Lewis, The Public Image of Hemy Ford: An American 



Folk Hew and His Company, Detroit: Wayne State University, 1976, p. 
213. 

16 . Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Tlie Fords: An American Epic, 
San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2002, p. 49; Lewis, The Public Image 
of Henry Ford, p. 475. 

17 . Collier and Horowitz, The Fords, p. 49. 

18. BFRC, Reminiscences, A. M. Wibel, pp. 1-7; Brinkley, Wheels for 
the World, p. 283. 

19 . Charles A. Lindbergh, The Wartime Journals of Charles A. 
Lindbergh, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970, p. 712; Samuel 
Marquis, Henry Ford: An Interpretation, Boston: Little, Brown, 1923, p. 
153. 

20 . T. E Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom , London: Jonathan 
Cape, 1935, p. 6; Lacey, Ford, p. 127; David E Nye, Henty Ford, 
"Ignorant Idealist'" Port Washington; N.Y: Kennikat Press, 1979, p. 71. 
Chapter 3 : Absolute Americanis ms 

L Lacey, Fond, p. 323; Brinkley, Wheels for the World, pp. 275-92; 
Nevins and Hill, Fond, pp. 279-99. 

2. "ComrnercialismMade This War," New York Times, April 11, 1915; 
Ann Jardim, The First Henry Ford: A Study in Personality and Business 
Leadership, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1970, p. 131, "Henry Ford Still 
Thinks Soldiers Are Murderers," New York Times, July 16, 1919; BFRC, 
Reminiscences, Irving Bacon, p. 26. 

3. New York World, July 18, 1919; "CommercialismMade This War," 
New York Times, April 11, 1915. 

4. Nevins and Hill, Ford, p. 610. 

5. Barbara S. Kraft, The Peace Ship, New York: Macmillan, 1978, pp. 
49-52. 

6. Philip Sheldon Fonei; History of the Labor Movement in the 
United States, New York: International Publishers, 1994, p. 8; " 'Mr. 
Zero' Befriends 'Shorn Labor Lambs,' " New York Times, September 5, 
1921; "Police Clubs BreakMobs of Idle" New York Times, September 20, 
1921. Ledoux would later go on to help organize the 1932 "Bonus Army''' 
march on Washington, during the Creat Depression. See "Bonus Army 
Digs In," New York Times, July 18, 1932. 

7. Millard, The River of Doubt , p. 337; Theodore Roosevelt to Henry 
Ford, November 30, 1914, in The Days of Armageddon : 1914-1919 , vol. 
8 of The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt , Cambridge: Harvard University 
Press, 1954, p. 851. 

8. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 190; "Roosevelt Urges Unity in 



America," New York Times, May 20, 1916. 

9. Theodore Roosevelt, The Winning of the West, vol 3, New York: G 
P Putnam's Sons, 1894, p. 45; Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous 
Life," in Lewis Copeland et al., eds ., The World's Great Speeches, New 
York: Courier Dover Publications, 1999, p. 345; T, J. Jackson Lears, No 
Place of Grace: Antimoderism and the Transformation of American 
Culture, 1880-1920, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981, p. 
134; Howard K. Beale, Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to 
World Power, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1956, pp. 37-38; John 
Judis, The Folly of Empire: What George W Bush Could Learn from 
Theodore Roosevelt and Woodtvw Wilson, New York: Oxford University 
Press, 2006; David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie, New York: Penguin, 2006, 
p. 650. 

10 . BFRC, accession 1, box 135, "Pacifism"; "Ford Leads St. Louis 
Poll: Roosevelt Second in Straw \6te and President Wilson Fifth," 
Washington Post, May 28, 1916. 

11. Reynold M. Wik, Henry Ford and Grass-Roots America, Ann 
Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972, p. 167. 

12 . Theodore Roosevelt to Henry Ford, February 9, 1916, in The Days 
of Armageddon: 191 4-1919, p. 1022. 

13 . "Roosevelt Urges Unity in Defense," New York Times, December 
6, 1915; "Roosevelt to Visit Detroit," New York Times, May 14, 1916; 
"Roosevelt Urges Unity in America," New York limes, May 20, 1916; 
Brinkley, Wheels for the World, pp. 230-31; Collier and Horowitz, The 
Fords, p. 87. 

14 . Kathleen Dalton, Theodom Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life, New 
York: Knopf, 2002, p. 448; Theodore Roosevelt, Righteous Peace 
through National Preparedness: Speech ofTheodore Roosevelt at 
Detroit, May 19, 1916, Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger Publishing, 2006, p. 
19. 

15 . "Colonel Aloof, Ford Too," Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1916; 
"Ford Answers Roosevelt," New York Times, May 21, 1916. 

16 . Brinkley, Wlieelsfor the World, p. 233. 

17 . "Roosevelt Bitter in Beginning War on the President," New York 
Times, October 29, 1918. 

18. "Osborn Attacks Ford," New York Times, June 15, 1918; "To 
Michigan: Not Ford," Chicago Tribune, June 27, 1918; Theodore 
Roosevelt, "The Man Who Pays and the Man Who Profits," 
Washington Post, August 11, 1918. See also Theodore Roosevelt, "Test 
Wilson by His Own Tests," Chicago Tribune, June 26, 1918, and 



"Roosevelt Bitter in Beginning War on the President," New York Times, 
October 29, 1918. 

19 . BFRC, accession 65, Oral History, Irving Bacon, p. 45. 

20 . Leonard, The Tragedy of Henry Fond , pp. 48-49. 
Chapter 4: That's Where We Sure Can Get Gold 

L Leonard, The Tragedy of Henry Ford , p. 170; "Henry Ford Still 
Thinks Soldiers Are Murderers," New York Times, July 16, 1919. 

2. Baldwin, Henry Ford and the Jews, p. 17; Ford was quoting 
"Locksley Hall" as late as November 1941. See Charles A. Lindbergh, 
The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh , p. 555. For the Victor 
Hugo quote, see Albert Schinz, "Victor Hugo, le Grand Poete 
Humanitaire; Champion de la Cause de la Paix Universelle; Promoteur de 
l'ldee des Etats-Unis d'Europe," French Review 9 (November, 1935): 11 
-25. 

3. BFRC, Reminiscences, A. M. Wibel. 

4. BFRC, accession 1, box 12, folder 8; Marquis, Henry Ford, p. 58. 

5. Nevins and Hill, Ford, p. 605; Mary Dempsey, "Henry Ford's 
Amazonian Suburbia," Americas, March 1996, p. 44; Leo Marx, The 
Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, 
New York: Oxford University Press, 1964, pp. 18, 241. 

6. Howard P. Segal's Recasting the Machine Age: Henry Ford's 
Village Industries, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005, is 
the most comprehensive study of Ford's village industries. See also 
Wik, Henry? Ford and Grass-Roots America, p. 159; Ney, Henry- Ford, p. 
80. 

7. "Soy Beans "Edison Institute of 'Technology Bulletin , April 1935; 
Fann Chemurgic Council, "Proceedings of the Second Dearborn 
Conference of Agriculture, Industry, and Science, Dearborn, Michigan, 
May 12-14, 1936." 

8. Collier and Horowitz, The Fords, p. 106; WilliamAdams Simonds, 
Henry Ford and Greenfield Village, New York: FrederickA. Stokes, 1938, 
p. 235; Ney, Henry- Ford, p. 79. 

9. Brian Cleven, "Henry Ford: Life and Logging," Michigan History, 
January- February 1999; Ford R Bryan, Beyond the Model T: The Other 
Ventures of Henry- Ford, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1990, pp. 
118-29; William Stidger, Henry Ford: The Man and His Motives, New 
York: George H. Doran, 1923, p. 161. 

10. Bryan, Beyond the Model T, pp. 45-58. 

11. BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, Joseph Francois. 

12 . Tom McCarthy, "Henry Ford, Industrial Conservationist? Take- 



Back, Waste Reduction, and Recycling at the Rouge," Progress in 
Industrial Ecology: An International Journal 3, no. 4 (2006): 305; Ford 
Conies to Iron Mountain: The Birth ofKingsford, np, nd (located in Iron 
Mountain Public Library). 

13 . David L. Lewis, "The Rise and Fall of Old Henry's Northern 
Empire," Cars and Parts, December 1973, p. 92. 

14 . BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, Oscar G. Olsen. 

15 . Cleven, "Life and Logging," p. 20; BFRC, accession 65, 
Reminiscences, Alfred Johnson; Bryan, Beyond the Model T,p. 119. 

16. Nevins and Hill, Fond, p. 219; BFRC, vertical file. Village 
Industries, General, 1920s, "Henry Ford Says Farrner-Workrnen Will 
Build Automobile of the Future," published in Automotive Age, August 
28, 1924; BFRC, vertical file, Village Industries, General, "One Foot in 
Industry and One Foot in the Soil." 

17 . "Ford Plans a New York for Alabama," Chicago Defender, May 
20, 1922; "City All Mainstreet" Literary Digest, April 8, 1922; littlee 
McClung, "The Seventy -Five-Mile City," Scientific American, 
September 1922. 

18 . "Rush for Muscle Shoals," New York Times, Febuary 12, 1922; 
"The Truth about Muscle Shoals," Atlanta Constitution, March 26, 
1922. 

19 . Samuel Crowther, "Muscle Shoals," McClures Magazine, 
January 1923; "Ford Detenrrined to Secure Shoals," Atlanta 
Constitution, March 18, 1922; Nye, Henry Fond, pp. 32, 84. 

20 . "Ford Detenrrined to Secure Shoals"; Nye, Henry Ford, p. 93. 

21 . Lacey, Ford, pp. 128-29; Leonard, The Tragedy of Henry Ford, p. 
26; Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night , trans. 
Ralph Manheim, New York: New Directions, 2006, p. 194. 

22. Segal, Recasting the Machine Age, p. 76; Brinkley, Wheels for the 
World, p. 394; Lacey, Fond, pp. 368-70. 

23. Sward, The Legend of Henry Fond , p. 314; Segal, Recasting the 
Machine Age, p. 76. 

24. Phillip Bonosky, Brother Bill McKie: Building the Union at 
Ford, New York: International Publishers, 2000, p. 56. 

25. Brinkley, Ford, p. 260. 

26. The book was published in English as The Crowd: A Study of the 
Popular Mind by E. Benn in 1896, but Ford cited the exact translation of 
its original French title, published in 1895. See p. xvii for the quote. 

27 . BFRC, vertical file, Village Industries, General, 1920s, "Henry Ford 
Says Farmer- Workmen Will Build Automobile of the Future." 



28 . Collier and Horowitz, The Fords, p. 123; Brinkley, Wheels for the 
World, p. 426; Nevins and Hill, Ford, p. 536. 

29 . Henry Ford, Ford Ideals: Being a Selection from "Mr Fold's 
Page " in the Dearborn Independent, Dearborn: Dearborn Publishing, 
1922, pp. 357-60. 

30 . For the Sunday Evening Hour, see Lewis, The Public Image of 
Henry Ford, p. 453; "Farewell, Ford," Time, February 1942; Nevins and 
HilLForc/,p.598. 

31 . Nye, Henry Ford, p. 82. 

32. Wik, Henry- Ford and Grass-Roots America, p. 120; Sward, Tlie 
Legend of Henry Fotd, p. 129; Alvin Rosenbaum, Usonia: Frank Lloyd 
Wright s Design for America, Washington, D.C.: Preservation Press, 
1993, pp. 60-62. 

Chapter 5: Fordville 

J_. Jose Custodio Alves de Lima, Recordacdes de homens e cousas do 
meu tempo, Rio de Janeiro, 1926, pp. 373-77; BFRC, accession 38, box 
61, "History of the Conpanhia Ford Industrial do Brasil since Its 
Inception"; BFRC, accession 285, box 420, de Lima to Ford, September 
29, 1925. 

2. Meyer, The Five Dollar Day, p. 40; Nevins and Hill, Foid, p. 600; 
Clayton Sinyai, Schools of Democracy: A Political History of the 
American Labor Movement, Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press, 2006, 
p. 66. 

3. Nevins and Hill, Ford, pp. 485, 600; Brinkley, Wheels for the World, 
p. 250. 

4. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 202; see also Mira Wilkins and 
Frank Ernest Hill, American Business Abroad: Ford on Six Continents, 
Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1964; Richard Downs, "Autos 
over Rails: How US Business Supplanted the British in Brazil, 1910-28," 
Journal of Latin American Studies 24 (October 1992): 551-83. 

5. Barbara Weinstein, For Social Peace in Brazil: Industrialists and 
the Remaking of the Working Class in Sao Paulo, 1920-1964, Chapel 
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997; Downs, "Autos over 
Rails"; Joel Wolfe, Autos and Pmgress: The Brazilian Search for 
Modernity, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, ch. 3. 

6. Paul Hoffrnan, Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the 
Invention of Flight, New York: Hyperion, 2006. 

7. NationalArchives, RG59, decimal file 121.5632/6, Morgan to 
Secretary of State, May 25, 1926; WilliamLytle Schurz, Brazil: The 
Infinite Country, New York:E. P Dutton, 1961, p. 64; Machado, 



"Farquhar and Ford," p. 262; Joan Hoff, American Business and Foreign 
Policy, 1920-1933, Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1971, p. 
278, n. 33; Joseph Tulchin, Aftermath of War and US Policy toward 
Latin America, New York: New York University Press, 1971, p. 112; 
Herbert Hoover, Memoirs, New York: Macmillan, 1952, vol. 2, p. 79. 

8. "U.S. Appoints Commission to Study South American Rubber," 
Atlanta Constitution, August 5, 1923; BFRC, accession 74, box 17, 
"Alleged Scandal about Our Concession"; National Archives, RG59, 
rrricrofilm519, roll 32, 832.52/22, "State of Para Offers Gratuitous 370,000- 
Acre Concessions of Rubber-Producing Lands in Development Project," 
November 13, 1925; NationalArchives, RG 59, micro-film 0519, roll 43, 
832.6176F75/1, Minter to State, July 5, 1927; RG59, Micro-film 0519, roll 
43, 832.6176F75/2, Minter to State, July 11, 1927; BFRC, Reminiscences, 
O. Z. Ide; Machado, "Ford and Farquhar," pp. 284-%. 

9. BFRC, accession 285, box20, letter from Schurz to Liebold, July 21, 
1925; BFRC, accession 74, box 13, letter from Schurz to Henry Ford, 
September 12, 1925; Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," pp. 260-61. See 
also Hoff, American Business and Foreign Policy, pp. 206-7, for similar 
practices by attaches in Asia. 

10. NationalArchives, RG59, micro film 05 19, roll 43, 832.6176F75/1, 
Minter to State, July 5, 1927, enclosure 2. 

11. National Archives , RG 59, microfilm 05 19, roll 43, 832.6176F75/1, 
Minter to State, July 5, 1927, enclosure 4, NationalArchives, microfilm 
0519, roll 43, 832.6176F75/3, Minterto State, July 22, 1927; Machado, 
"Ford and Farquhar, "p. 306; NationalArchives, RG59, micro film 05 19, 
roll 43, 832.6176F75/1, Minter to State, July 5, 1927, enclosure 1. 

\2. BFRC, accession 74, box 17, Mllares to Greite, August 14, 1926. 

13. NationalArchives, RG59, micro film 05 19, roll 43, 832.6176F75/1, 
Minter to State, July 5, 1927, enclosure 4. 
Chapter 6: They Will All Die 

L Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 225; BFRC, accession 285, box 
696, Henry Ford Office; Dean, Struggle for Rubber, pp. 72, 75. 

2. BFRC, vertical file, "A Report of the Exploration of the Tapajos 
\alley by Carl D. LaRue," April 19, 1927. 

3. Brinkiey, Wheels for the WorId,p. 368. 

4. Leon Jacobs, "Hookworm Disease," American Journal of 
Nursing, November 1940, pp. 1191-%. 

5. Barbara Weinstein, The Amazon Rubber Boom, 1850-1920, Palo 
Alto: Stanford University Press, 1983, pp. 75, 250-60. 

6. John R. Lee, "The So-Called Profit Sharing System in the Ford 



Plant," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social 
Sciences 65 (May 1916): 305; Meyer, The Five Dollar Day. 

7. Nevins and Hill, Ford, p. 614. 

8. Michael Edward Stanfield, Red Rubber, Bleeding Trees: Violence, 
Slavery, and Empire in Northwest Amazonia, 1850-1933, Albuquerque: 
University of New Mexico Press, 1998. 

9. Hounshell, From the American System, p. 276; David Halberstam, 
The Reckoning, New York: William Morrow, 1986,p.90; Baldwin, Henry 
Ford and the Jews, p. 231. 

10 . Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 362; Segal, Recasting the 
Machine Age, p. 30. 

11. Collier and Horowitz, The Fords, p. 99; Halberstam, The 
Reckoning, p. 94. 

12 . Marquis, Henry Ford: An Interpretation, p. 76. 

13 . "Mr. Ford's Opportunity," New York Times, March 20, 1927. 

14 . Lacy, Ford, p. 217; Baldwin, Henry Fond and the Jews, pp. 222, 

237. 

15 . Baldwin, Henry Ford and the Jews, p. 237. 
Chapter 7: Everything Jake 

1. Royal Davis, "Cycles in the Automobile Pneumatic Tire Renewal 
Market in the United States," Journal of the American Statistical 
Association 26, Supplement: Proceedings of the American Statistical 
Association (March 1931): 10-19. 

2. Roy Nash, 777e Conquest of Brazil (1926), New York: Biblo and 
Tannen, 1998, p. 200. 

3. Sean Dennis Cashman, America in the Twenties and Thirties: The 
Olympian Age of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, New York: NYU Press, 
1989, p. 19. 

4. Collier and Horowitz, The Fords, pp. 122-23, 133; Thomas Bonsall, 
"Edsel: The Forgotten Ford," Automobile Quarterly, Fall 1991, p. 21, 
cited in Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 401. 

5. "Life with Henry," Tune Magazine, October 8, 1951. 

6. BFRC, "Diary Kept by Judge O. Z. Ide during South American Trip 
to Investigate Possible Sites for Rubber Plantation, June-November 
1927'; BFRC, Reminiscences, O. Z. Ide. 

7. Ferreira de Castro, A Selva,p. 10; Thomas Oram, "The Women of 
the Open Door: Jews in the Belle Epoque Amazonian Demimonde, 1890 
-1920," Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 19 
(2001): 86-99. 

8. National Archives, RG59, micro film 05 19, roll 43, 832.6176F75/4, 



Minter to State, July 22, 1927. 

9. National Archives, RG59, microfilm 0519, roll 43, 832.6176F75/5, 
State to Minter, nd; National Archives, RG59, microfilm 05 19, roll 43, 
832.6176F75/3, Minter to State, July 23, 1927; Machado, "Farquhar and 
Ford," p. 310. 

10 . BFRC, Reminiscences, O. Z. Ide; National Archives, RG59, 
microfilm 0519, roll 43, 832.6 176F75/5, State to Minter, nd; National 
Archives, RG59, microfilm 0519, roll 43, 832.6 176F75/3, Minterto State, 
July 23, 1927; Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 310. 

11. BFRC, Reminiscences, O. Z. Ide. 

12 . Wilkins and Hill, American Business Abroad, p. 169; BFRC, 
Reminiscences, O. Z. Ide. 

13. National Archives, RG59, microfilm 0519, roll 43, 832.6 176F75/3, 
Minter to State, July 23, 1927; BFRC, "Diary Kept by Judge O. Z. Ide 
during South American Trip." 

14 . Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 311. 

15 . First mention of "Fordlandia" in company records is in the Ford 
News, November 1, 1928; BFRC, accession 74, box 13, "Rubber 
Production." 

16 . BFRC, accession 196, "O. Z. Ide Fordlandia"; BFRC, accession 
301,box2. 

Chapter 8: When Ford Conies 

1. National Archives, RG59, micro film 0519, roll 43, 832.6 176F75/3, 
Minter to State, July 23, 1927. 

2. Imn Mountain News, February 11, 1930. 

3. BFRC, Reminiscences, E G. Liebold, p. 630. 

4. David Cleary, " 'Lost Altogether to the Civilised World': Race and 
the Cabanagemin Northern Brazil, 1750-1850," Comparative Studies in 
Society and History 40 (January 1998): 109-35; Hemming, Tree of Rivers , 
p. 122.' 

5. Hemming, Tree of Rivers , p. 122; Cleary, " 'Lost Altogether to the 
Civilised World/ "p. 131. 

6. Weinstein, The Amazon Rubber Boom, p. 42. 

7. George Washington Sears, Foiest Runes, Forest and Stream 
Publishing Conpany, 1887, pp. 157-58; Hecht, "The Last Unfinished 
Page of Genesis," p. 61. 

8. Author's interview with Diogo Franco, March 14, 2008. 

9. Henry Albert Phillips, Brazil: Bulwark of In ter- American 
Relations, New York: Hastings House, 1945, p. 63; Jarres Orton, The 
Andes and the Amazon, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1870, p. 200; 



David Riker, "The Last Southern Seed," unpublished manuscript. 

10 . BFRC, vertical file, Rubber Plantations, Correspondence; Ford R. 
Bryan, "Henry's So-Called Rubber Plantation in Florida"; "Ford Plans 
Rubber Grove," New York Times, February 17, 1925, p. 10; Williams 
Johns Cummings, ed., Fwm Kingsfbrd: The Town Ford Built, in 
Dickinson Country, Michigan (scrapbook of newspaper clippings in 
Iron Mountain's public library). 

1L Eimar Franco, O Tapajos que eu vi (memorias), Santarerrr. 
lnstituto Cultural Boanerges Sena, 1998, p. 39; author's interview with 
Eimar Franco, March 16, 2008. 

12 . Aubrey Stuart, trans ., How Henry Ford Is Regarded in Brazil: 
Articles by Monteiro Lobato, Rio de Janeiro, 1926 (available in Yale's 
Sterling Library); Thomas Skid-more, "Brazil's American Illusions: From 
Dom Pedro II to the Coup of 1964," Luso-Brazilian Review 23 (Winter 
1986): 77; Machado, "Farquharand Ford,"p. 311; Lourenco, 
"Americanos e caboclos," p. 38; Edward Tomlinson, "Jungle Gold," 
Colliers Weekly, December 12, 1936. 

13 . Tomlinson, "Jungle Gold." 

14 . John P. Harrison, "Science and Politics: Origins and Objectives of 
Mid-Nineteenth Century Government Expeditions to Latin America," 
Hispanic American Historical Review 35 (May 1955): 189; John Horner 
Galey, "The Politics of Development in the Brazilian Amazon, 1940 
-1950," PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 1977, p. 2. 

15. Folha do Norte, March 2, 1929. 

16 . BFRC, accession 74, box 14, "Black Book Strictly Confidential." 
Gazeta de Noticias published Souza Castro's attacks throughout May 
1928. 

17 . OJornal, February 19, 1928; Assis Chateaubriand, As nuvens que 
vem: Discourses parlamentares, Rio de Janeiro: Edicoes Cruzeiro, 1963, 
pp. 360-62. 

18 . OJornal, February 19, 1928; Assis Chateaubriand, As nuvens que 
vem, pp. 360-62; Lourenco, "Americanos e caboclos," pp. 35, 38. 

19. BFRC, accession 285, box 420, Liebold to de Lima, October 28, 
1925; de Lima, Recoiziacoes de homens e cousas do men tempo, pp. 373 
-77. 

Chapter 9: Two Rivers 

L BFRC, accession 74, box 13, "Rubber Production in Amazon 
\alley." 

2. McCarthy, "Henry Ford, Industrial Conservationist?"; "Ford May 
Use Waste Fire," Los Angeles Times, April 11, 1928. 



3. Bryan, Beyond the Model T, pp. 140-50, 155; Nevins and Hill, 
Ford, p. 610. 

4. Fori News, March 15, 1928; August 1, 1928. 

5. "Ford Rubber Plantation Ship Leaves Detroit," New York Times, 
July 27, 1928; "Ford Expedition Starts to Exploit Rubber Tract," 
Washington Post, July 27, 1928; "Ford \6yagers," Detwit News, July 28, 
1928; FordNews, August 19, 1928. 

6. BFRC, Reminiscences, Ernest Liebold. 

7. "City That Lost Chance Offered It by Ford," New York Times, 
March 2, 1930; Howard Wolf and Ralph Wolf, Rubber: A Story of Glory 
and Greed, New York: Covici Friede, 1936, p. 239. 

8. "Ford Sends Party to Start Rubber Culture in Brazil," Christian 
Science Monitor, July 27, 1928; "Ford \foyagers" Detroit News, July 28, 
1928. 

9. Detroit News, July 25, 1928; July 26, 1928; July 29, 1928. 

K). "Henry Ford, 65, Pledges Speed," Detroit Times, July 30, 1928; 
BFRC, accession 1, box 11. 

11. BFRC, accession 38, box61, "History of the Companhia Ford 
Industrial Do Brasil since Its Inception." 

12 . BFRC, accession 74, box 17, Oxholmto Sorensen, September 28, 
1928; "Ford Plan Arouses Acclaim in Brazil," New York Tim.es, November 
25, 1928. 

13 . Brett C. Millier, Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It , 
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, p. 309. 

14 . Nash, The Conquest of Brazil , p. 201. 

15 . Hugh Raffles, In Amazonia: A Natural History, Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 2002, p. 25; BFRC, accession 6, box 74, 'The 
Ford Rubber Plantations." 

16 . BFRC, accession 74, box2, "Report on visit of W. E. Carnegie, 
1929" 

17 . "With Ford on the Amazon: The story ofthe Ford Plantation, an 
Eye-Witness," Planter, January 1931, in BFRC, vertical file, "Rubber 
Plantations"; BFRC, accession 285, box 748; BFRC, accession 74, box 13, 
"Black Binder." 

18 . Lourenco, "Americanos e caboclos," p. 40; "With Ford on the 
Amazon"; BFRC, accession 38, box61, Oxholmto Sorensen, January 19, 
1929. 

Chapter 10: Smoke and Ash 

X BFRC, accession 74, box 13; NationalArchives, RG59, microfilm 
0519, roll 43, 832.6176F75/3, Minter to State, July 23, 1927. 



2. BFRC, accession 74, box 13. 

3. Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 319; BFRC, accession 74, box 
13; BFRC, accession 301, box2; BFRC, accession 74, box2, "Report on 
Visit of W. E Carnegie." 

4. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 189. 

5. Phillips, Brazil, p. 56. 

6. Franco, O Tapajos, p. 81; author's interview, Eimar Franco, March 

16, 2008. 

7. Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 318; BFRC, accession 74, box 

17, "Alleged Scandal about Our Concession"; NationalArchives, RG59, 
microfilm 0519, roll 43, 832.6176F75/14, Minterto State, November 25, 
1927. 

8. Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 318; BFRC, "Alleged Scandal 
about Our Concession"; Minterto State, November 25, 1927; BFRC, 
accession 38, box 113; BFRC, accession 74, box 1, Roberge, November 
23, 1934; BFRC, accession 301, box2, "Notes of Rubber Company 
Matters"; BFRC, accession 38, box 113, Longley to Sorensen, July 2, 
1928. 

9. BFRC, accession 74, box 17, "Interplant Correspondence." 

K>. NationalArchives, RG59, micro film 05 19, roll 43, 832.6 176F75/2, 
Minterto State, July 11, 1927; 832.6 176F75/29, Drew to State, April 22, 
1929; BFRC, accession 390, box86, Johnston to Wibel, October 9, 1933; 
"Ford Handicapped by Labor Scarcity," New York Times, October 20, 
1929; Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," pp. 317, 358-63; BFRC, "Alleged 
Scandal about our Concession." 

11. NationalArchives, RG 59, microfilm 0519, roll 43, 832.6 176F75/22, 
Drew to State, December 15, 1928; Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 
343. 

12 . Hoffman, Wings of Madness , p. 279. 

13 . "Henry Ford Still Thinks Soldiers Are Murderers," New York 
Times, July 16, 1919; Wik, Henry Ford and Grass-Roots America, p. 253. 

14 . Hoffman, Wings of Madness , p. 302. 

15 . Hoffman, Wings of Madness , p. 300; David Orrissi, Air Power 
and Colonial Control: The Royal Air Force, 1919-1939, Manchester: 
Manchester University Press, 1990. 

16. "Air Crash Kills 14 in Rio," New York Times, December 4, 1928. 

17 . Hoffman, Wings of Madness , p. 3 10; Samuel Guy Inman, Latin 
America: Its Place in World Life, Freeport, N. Y: Ayer, 1972, pp. 223-25; 
Matthew Hughes, "Logistics of the Chaco War, 1932-1935," Journal of 
Military History 69 (2005): 411-37. 



18 . Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 344. 

19 . Dean, Struggle for Rubber, pp. 73-74. 

20. BFRC, accession 74, Box 14, "Black Book: Strictly Confidential." 

21. National Archives, RG59, microfilm 0519, roll 43, 832.6 176F75/22, 
Drew to State, December 15, 1928; 832.6 176F75/29, Drew to State,April 
22, 1929; 832.6176F75/32, Memo, Division of Latin Airerican Affairs, 
May 3, 1929; BFRC, accession 301, box21, Carnegie to Craig, March 27, 
1931; BFRC, accession 74, box 13, "Report on Visit to Companhia Ford 
Industrial do Brasil," December 2, 1930; Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," 
p. 348. 

22. Folha do Norte, March 2, 1929, and March 3, 1929. 

23. BFRC, accession 74, box2, "Personnel File 1930;" Folha do 
Norte, May 8, 1930. 

24. BFRC, "Black Book: Strictly Confidential." 
Chapter 11: Prophesied Subjection 

J_. McNairn and McNairn, Quotations, p. 51. 

2. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 102; BFRC, Reminiscences, A. 
M. Wibel,pp. 168-69. 

3. BFRC, accession 38, box61, Sorensen to Oxholm, July 5, 1929. 

4. BFRC, accession 74, box 13, "lnterplant Correspondence." 

5. Wilkins and Hill, American Business Abroad, p. 172. 

6. "Brazil Sending Arms to Ford's Plantation," Washington Post, 
January 3, 1929. 

7. BFRC, accession 74, box 17, Oxholm to Sorensen, September 28, 
1928. 

8. Hemming, Tme of Rivers , p. 17; Roger D. Stone, Dreams of 
Amazonia, New York: Penguin, 1989, p. 47; BFRC, accession 65, 
Reminiscences, Victor J. Perini (as told by Constance Perini); 
Reminiscences, Matt Mulrooney. 

9. Phillips, Brazil, pp. 68-69; J. T. Baldwin Jr., "David B. Riker and 
Hevea brasiliensis" Economic Botany 22 (1968): 383—84. 

10. BFRC, accession 74, box 14, "Black Book: Strictly Confidential." 

11. BFRC, accession 74, box6, Miscellaneous Letters. 

12. BFRC, accession 390, box86, Johnston to WibeL June 5, 1934. 

13. BFRC, accession 74, box9, Johnston to Stallard, April 15, 1940. 

14 . Bdviges Maria loris, "AForest of Disputes: Struggles over 
Spaces, Resources, and Social Identities in Amazonia," PhD dissertation, 
University of Florida, 2005. 

15 . BFRC, accession 74, box 6, "Indian Labor." 

16 . BFRC, Reminiscences, Carl LaRue; BFRC, accession 74,box2, 



"Riot 1930"; BFRC, accession 74, box2, "Report on Visit of W. E. 
Carnegie." 

17 . Franco, O Tapafos, pp. 82-83; BFRC, accession 74, box 13, 
"Report on Visit," December 2, 1930. See also the binder in accession 74, 
box9, that contains a report on the land titles held within the boundaries 
of Fordlandia; "Armed Brazilians Raid Ford Rubber Plantation," New 
York Times, December 25, 1930; "Enjoin Ford Interests," New York 
Times, December 27, 1930; Segal, Recasting the Machine Age, p. 24. 

18 . Imn Mountain News, January 26, 1925; August 3, 1925. 

19 . BFRC, Reminiscences, Ernest Liebold. 

20 . BFRC, accession 38, box 64, Sorensen to Victor Perini, February 
28, 1930. 

21. Author's interview with Eimar Franco, March 16, 2008. 

22. Folha do Norte, December 23, 1930. 

23 . BFRC, accession 74, box 7, Oxholm's monthly progress reports to 
Sorensen. 

24. BFRC, "Report on Visit of W. E Carnegie." 

25. Grubb, Amazon and the Andes, p. 19. 

26. BFRC, accession 38, box61, "Rubber Plant Visit 1929." 
Chapter 12: The Ford Way of Thinking 

J_. BFRC, accession 38, box 61, "History of the Companhia Ford 
Industrial do Brasil since Its Inception"; BFRC, accession 74, box 13, 
"Companhia Ford Industrial do Brasil"; BFRC, accession 88, box2, Mira 
Wilkins Research Papers, Interview with William Cowling. 

2. Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," pp. 349-53. 

3. BFRC, accession 38, box61, Sorensen to Oxholm, July 5, 1929; 
BFRC, accession 74, box 17, "Cowling to Ford, et al.," August 20, 
August 23, and September 9, 1929. 

4. For Bennett's role in Ford's subsequent firing of Cowling, see 
Bennett, We Never Called Him Henry, New York: Gold Medal Books, 
1951, p. 61. 

5. "Cowling to Ford, et al.," August 20, August 23, and September 9, 
1929. 

6. NationalArchives, RG59, micro film 05 19, roll 43, 832.6176F75/55, 
Drew to State, October 1, 1929; Machado, "Farquhar and Ford," p. 361. 

7. "Golden Jubilee," Time, May 27, 1929; Warren Sloat, 1929: 
America before the Crash, New York: Cooper Square Press, 2004 (1979). 

8. Kaj Oslenfeld, "The Family with the Red Roses," unpublished 
manuscript on deposit in New York Public Library, APV(Ostenfeld) 93- 
2371. 



9. "With Ford on the Amazon: The Story of the Ford Plantation, an 
Eye-Witness," Planter, January 1931, in BFRC, Vertical File, "Rubber 
Plantations." 

10. Ibid. 

Wilkins and Mill, American Business Ahmad, p. 171. 

12. BFRC, accession 285, box 755. 

13 . BFRC, accession 6, box 74; BFRC, accession 74, box 10. 

14 . "Armed Brazilians Raid Ford Rubber Plantation," New York 
Times, December 25, 1930; "Opposition to Ford Dropped in Brazil," New 
York Times, May 3, 1931; Isabel Vincent, "Fordlandia: The Amazon Town 
That Henry Ford Built," Globe and Mail, March 20, 1993. 

15 . "Brazil Sending Anns to Ford's Plantation," New York Times, 
January 3, 1929. 

16 . BFRC, accession 390, box 86, Johnston to Wibel, December 31, 
1932. 

17. BFRC, accession 38, box61, Oxholm, October 17, 1929. 

18 . John Galey, "Industrialist in the Wilderness: Henry Ford's 
Amazon Venture," Journal ofTnteramerican Studies and World Affairs 
21 (1979): 271; author's interview with Einar Oxholm's son Einar, 
February 12, 2008. 

19 . "Ford Envoy Leaves Brazil," New York Times, October 4, 1929; 
BFRC, accession 301, box21, W. E Carnegie to B. J. Craig; BFRC, 
accession 74, box 13, "Report on Visit to Companhia Ford Industrial do 
Brasil," December 2, 1930. 

20 . BFRC, interview with William Cowling. 

21 . Dean, Struggle for Rubber, p. 73. 
Chapter 1 3 : What Would \ou Give for a Good J ob? 

X Nevins and Hill, Ford, pp. 17, 536. 

2. Ibid., pp. 14-15. 

3. BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, Victor J. Perini (as told by 
Constance Perini). 

4. BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, Matt Mulrooney. 

5. BFRC, accession 74, box 7, Monthly Reports, December 1930. 

6. Jose Maria Ferreira de Castro, Tlie Jungle, trans. Charles Duff, 
Viking, 1935, p. 65; Nash, Conquest of Brazil , p. 201. 

7. BFRC, accession 74, box 7, Progress Report. 

8. BFRC, accession 74, box 1, "Tentative Scheme of South American 
Plantation Organization"; BFRC, accession 74, box2, "Report on "Visit of 
W. ECamegie, 1929"; "Report on Ms it of Messrs W. E. Carnegie and V 
J. Perini, February 1931"; BFRC, accession 75, box 13, "General Plan of 



Operation for 1930 and 1931"; BFRC, accession 301, box2, "Companhia 
Ford Industrial do Brasil"; BFRC, accession 38, box61, "Report on the 
Second Ms it of W. E Carnegie, 1930"; BFRC, accession 74, box7, 
monthly progress reports. 

9. BFRC, accession 75, box 13, "General Plan of Operation for 1930 
and 1931." 

10 . Isabel Vincent, "Fordlandia: The Amazon Town That Henry Ford 
Built," Globe and Mail, March 20, 1993. 

JJ_. Henrique \eltman, "Os Hebraicos da Amazonia," unpublished 
manuscript, 2005, p. 55; Baldwin, "David B. Riker"; BFRC, accession 47, 
box 13, "Report on Visit'"; David Riker, "The Last Southern Seed," 
unpublished manuscript; author's interview with David Riker 's 
grandson, David Riker, July 28, 2007. 

12 . Earl Parker Hanson, Journey to Manaos, New York: Reynal and 
Hitchcock, 1938, p. 73; Kaj Ostenfeld, "The Family with the Red Roses,''' 
unpublished manuscript on deposit in New York Public Library, APV 
(Ostenfeld) 93-2371. 

13 . Ostenfeld, "The Family with the Red Roses." 

14 . Hanson, Journey to Manaos, pp. 74-76. 

15. Author's interview with Eimar Franco; Franco, OTapaj6s,p. 79; 
Vera Kelsey, Seven Keys to Brazil, New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1940, 
pp 222-23. 

16 . Vincent, "Fordlandia." 

17. Author's interview with Leanor Weeks, August 2, 2007; author's 
interview with Charles Townsend, June 20, 2008. 

18 . BFRC, accession 74, box5, Johnston to US Marines, September 
19, 1942. 

19 . BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, Matt Mulrooney; Allison 
McCracken, " 'God's Gift to Us Girls': Crooning, Gender, and the Re- 
creation of American Popular Song, 1928-1933," American Music 17 
(1999): 365-95. 

20 . BFRC, accession 74, box 18, miscellaneous reports and telegrams; 
BFRC, accession 74, box 16, "Gardens," McClure to Edsel Ford, August 
3, 1939; BFRC, accession 74, box 14, Roberge, May 5, 1939. 

21 . William Cronon, Natures Metropolis: Chicago and the Great 
West, New York: Norton, 1992, p. 202. 

Chapter 14: Let's Wander OutMmder 

1, BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, John R Rogge. 

2. Elizabeth Esch, "Fordtown: Managing Race and Nation in the 
American Empire, 1925-1945," PhD dissertation, New York University, 



2003, p. 97; BFRC, accession 285, box 1275. 

3. BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, Matt Mulrooney. 

4. BFRC, accession 301, box2, "Companhia Ford Industrial do 
Brasil." 

5. BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, Matt Mulrooney; BFRC, 
Reminiscences, John R Rogge. Also see "Ford Plant Chief to Leave 
Here Tomorrow for Project in Brazil," hon Mountain News, February 11, 
1930, which summarizes a letter Rogge wrote home about his uprivertrip. 

6. Information on John Rogge's life and activities at Fordlandia 
comes from an interview with his nephew, Roger Rogge, July 17, 2007. 

7. Raffles, In Amazonia, p. 138. 

8. Weinstein, The Amazon Rubber Boom, pp. 53, 73, 126, 169, 185-87, 
189, 237, 291; William Lewis Hemdon and Lardner Qbben, Exploration 
of the Valley of the Amazon Made under Direction of the Navy 
Department, Washington, D.C.: Robert Armstrong, 1854, pp. 308, 311. 

9. Roosevelt, Through the Brazilian Wilderness, p. 360; Hemdon and 
Qbben, Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon ,p. 309. 

10 . For a photograph of Baretto's house, see Devon Record Office, 
Exeter, UK, Charles Luxmoore, 521 M-l/SS/9. 

11. McCracken, " 'God's Oft to Us Girls/ " p. 379. 

12 . Dydia Delyser, Ramona Memories: Tourism and the Shaping of 
Southern California, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 
2005; "The Right Woman in the Right Place," Washington Post, March 
26, 1883; Helen Hunt Jackson, Ramona: A Story, New York: Little, 
Brown, 1914, pp. 39, 46, 83. 

13 . Henri Coudreau, Voyage an Tapajoz, Paris, 1897, pp. 38-40; 
Geary, " 'Lost Altogether to the Civilised World': Race and the 
Cabanagemin Northern Brazil, 1750-1850": John Hemming, Amazon 
Frontier: The Defeat of the Brazilian Indians, Cambridge: Harvard 
University Press, 1987, p. 236; Sears, Forest Runes, p. 157; Robert F. 
Murphy, Headhunter s Heritage: Social and Economic Change among 
the Mundurucu Indians, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960, 
p. 1; Yolanda Murphy and Robert F. Murphy, Women of the Forest , New 
York: Columbia University Press, 2004, p. 105; for a short interview with 
a Mundurucu leader who helped put down the Cabanagem Revolt, see 
Hemdon and Qbben, Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon ,p. 311. 

14 . Robert F. Murphy, Mundurucu Religion, Berkeley: University of 
California Press, 1958, p. 8. 

15 . S. Brian Burkhalter and Robert F. Murphy, "Tappers and Sappers : 
Rubber, Gold, and Money among the Mundurucu," American 



Ethnologist 16(1989): 105, 114; Murphy, Mundmncu Religion, p. 10. 

16 . "Ford Tire Plants Planned in Brazil,'" New York Times, November 
16, 1928. 

Chapter 15: Kill All the Americans 

LA.Ogden Pierrot, "A Visit to Fordlandia," Rubber Age, April 10, 
1932. 

2. Esch, "Fordtown," p. 115; BFRC, accession 74, box2; author's 
interview with Eiinar Franco, March 16, 2008. 

3. For Riker's opinion, as interpreted by the traveler Henry Albert 
Phillips, see Brazil: Bulwark of Inter-American Relations, pp. 68-69; 
see also Baldwin, "David B. Riker and Hevea brasiliensis," pp. 383-84. 

4. Author's interview with Leanor Weeks; Phillips, Brazil, p. 63; 
BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, Matt Mulrooney. 

5. BFRC, accession 74, box2, "Report on Visit of W. E. Carnegie." 

6. Henry Ford, Today and Tomorrow, New York: Doubleday, p. 101; 
Mark Seltzer, Bodies and Machines, New York: Routledge, 1992, p. 157; 
Esch, "Fordtown," p. 48; Collier and Horowitz, The Fords, p. 11. 

7. "The Clocks Put Back," Chicago Daily Tribune, September 19, 
1885; "The Proposed Universal Day," Scientific American, May 20, 
1899; "ABelated Reform," Washington Post, February 13, 1898; "News 
of the Week," Michigan Farmer, November 17, 1900. 

8. Estado do Para, December 27, 1930. 

9. BFRC, accession 74, box 13, "Report on Visit to Companhia Ford 
Industrial do Brasil," December 2, 1930. 

10. BFRC, accession 74, Box2, "Riot 1930." 

11. Estado do Para, December 31, 1930. 

12 . Author's interviews with Leonor Weeks and David Bowman Riker 
(David Riker's grandson). 

13 . "Anned Brazilians Raid Ford Rubber Plantation," New York 
Tunes, December 25, 1930; "Enjoin Ford Interests," New York Times, 
December 27, 1930. 

14 . For the wheat bread and rice complaint, see BFRC, accession 75, 
box 17, "Interplant Correspondence," Kennedy to Dearborn, December 
24, 1930. For the Dearborn conpany store, see Nevins and HilL Ford, p. 
347. 

15 . Estado do Para, December 26, 1930. 

16 . Estado do Para, December 27, 1930. 

17 . Franco, O Tapajos, p. 82. 

18 . Folha do Norte, December 28, 1930; "Report Ford Ending Para 
Rubber Work," New York Times, February 2, 1931. 



Chapter 16: American Pastoral 

1. Collier and Horowitz, The Fords, p. 102; Sward, The Legend of 
Henry Ford, p. 223; Richard T. Ortquist, "Unemployment and Relief: 
Michigan's Response to the Depression during the Hoover Years," 
Michigan History 57 (1975): 209-36; T. H. Watkins, The Hungry Years, 
New York: Macmillan, 2000; Joyce Shaw Peterson, American Automobile 
Workers, 1900-1933, Albany: State University ofNew York Press, 1987, 
p. 135. 

2. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, pp. 380-88. 

3. Collier and Horowitz, The Foizis, pp. 102-3; Sward, The Legend of 
Henry Ford, pp. 224-25; "Times Good, Not Bad, Ford Says: Sees the 
Dawn of a Bright Future," New York Times, February 1, 1933. 

4. Barrie A. Wigmore, The Crash and Its Aftermath: A History of 
Securities Markets in the United States, 1929-1933, Westport, Conn.: 
Greenwood, 1985, p. 444; Lacey, Ford, pp. 327-40; Thomas J. Ticknor, 
"Motor City: The Impact of the Automobile Industry upon Detroit, 1900 
-1975," PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, 1978. 

5. Baldwin, Hemy Ford and the Jews, p. 303; David Allan Levine, 
Internal Combustion: The Races in Detroit, 1915-1926, Westport: 
Greenwood, 1976, pp. 161-64. See also FmmKingsfbrd: The Town Ford 
Built in Dickinson Country, Michigan. 

6. "The Despot of Dearborn," Scribner's Magazine, July 1931; 
Halberstam, The Reckoning, p. 65. 

7. "The Little Man in Henry Ford's Basement," American Mercury, 
May 1940; Bonosky, Brother Bill McKie, p. 79. 

8. Desmond Rochfort, Mexican Muralists: Or-ozco, Rivera, 
Siqueims, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998, p. 126. 

9. Ford R Bryan, Henry's Lieutenants, Detroit: Wayne State 
University Press, 1993, p. 284; HounshelLFram the American System, 
pp. 187, 288. 

10 . Diego Rivera, My Art, My Life, Mineola, N. Y: Courier Dover 
Publications, 1991, pp. 111-22; McNairn and McNairn, Quotations, p. 76. 

11 . Lew Andrews, Story and Space in Renaissance Art: The Rebirth 
of Continuous Narrative, Cambridge, U.K-.: Cambridge University Press, 
1998, p. 5. 

12 . Steven Watts, Peoples Tycoon: Henry Forzl and the American 
Century, New York: Knopf, 2005, pp. 320-21; Ralph Waldo Trine, The 
Power Tliat Wins, Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1928, p. 77. 

13 . Watts, Peoples Tycoon, p. 422; Geoffrey C. Upward, A Home for 
Our Heritage: Tlie Building and Growth of Greenfield Village and 



Henry Ford Museum, 1929-1979, Dearborn: Henry Ford Museum Press, 
p. 2; Steven Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life, 1876 
-1926, Chicago: University ofChicago Press, 1998,p. 156. 

14 . Conn, Museums and American Intellectual Life, p. 159; "Ford 
Builds a Unique Museum," New York Times, April 5, 1931. 

15 . Upward, .4 Home for Our Heritage, p. 26. 

16 . Simonds, Henry Fond and Greenfield Village, p. 134. 

17 . Lacey, Ford, p. 244; Watts, Peoples Tycoon, pp. 407-9, 422. 

18 . New York Times, January 12, 1936. 

19 . Rivera, My Art, My Life, p. 112. 

20 . Nevins and Hill, /-bra', p. 605; Dempsey, "Henry Ford's 
Amazonian Suburbia,"p. 44; Marx, The Machine in the Garden, pp. 18, 
165. 

21. Nevins and Hill, Ford, pp. 598, 610. 

22. Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses , New York: New 
American Library, 1950, p. 59. 

23. Lindbergh, The Wartime Journals, p. 712. 

24. Brinkley, Wlieelsfor the World, p. 422. 

25. Collier and Horowitz, The Fords, pp. 121, 164. 

26. Upward,^ Home for Our Heritage, p. 22; Richard Bak, Henry and 
Edsel: Tlie Creation of the Ford Empire, New York: Wiley, 2003. 

2£ Wright, On Architecture, pp. 145-46. 
Chapter 17: Good Lines, Straight and True 

1. BFRC, accession 74, box2, "Report on Msit of Messrs. W. E. 
Carnegie and V J. Perini," February 1931; "Opposition to Ford Dropped 
in Brazil," New York Times, May 3, 1931; "Ford Plans a Town on Brazilian 
Tract," New York Times, February 7, 1931. 

2. "Report Ford Ending Para Rubber Work," New York Times, 
February 2, 1931; "Ford Men Deny Plan to Drop Rubber Work," New 
York Times, February 3, 1931; "Edison to Stay on Job Till He Makes 
Rubber," New York Times, March 18, 1930; India Rubber Journal, May 
23, 1931, p. 671. 

3. Segal, Recasting the Machine Age, p. 13; Brinkley, Wheels for the 
Wor!d,p.m. 

4. "Opposition to Ford Dropped in Brazil"; "Ford Plans a Town on 
Brazilian Tract"; "Fordlandia, Brazil," Washington Post, August 12, 1931; 
"Modem City Rises in Jungle," Chicago Tribune, March 30, 1932. 

5. "Fordlandia, Brazil"; "No Business Depression Here," New York 
Times, December 27, 1931; "life in Fordlandia!" Iron Mountain Daily 
News, May 18, 1932. 



6. Washington Post, February 15, 1942; "Sober Second Thoughts on 
Things and Kings," New York Ti mes, April 27, 1930. 

7. National Archives, RG59, microfilm 1472, roll 40, 832.6176/58, Drew 
to State, February 14, 1930. 

8. BFRC, accession 23, box 17, "Rubber Plantation," "Ford Summer 
Hour," Sunday, August 24, 1941. 

9. BFRC, accession 38, box 68, February 1931. 

10 . BFRC, vertical file, "Rubber Plantation; Brazil Correspondence," 
Letter to H. G. Moore, September 26, 1934. 

JJ_. Meyer, The Five Dollar Day, p. 176; Nevins and Hill, Fore/, p. 537; 
"Report on Visit ofMessrs. W. E. Carnegie and V J. Perini." 

12 . Esch, "Fordtown," p. 120; "Ford Voyagers," Detroit News, July 
28, 1928. 

13. Folha do Norte, September 16, 1934. 

14 . "Report on Visit ofMessrs. W. E. Carnegie and V J. Perini " 

15 . "Report on Visit ofMessrs. W. E. Carnegie and V J. Perini"; 
BFRC, accession 390, box 86, Johnston to Wibel, October 9, 1933. 

16 . BFRC, accession 74, box 13, "Black Binder," "Brazil Rubber 
Plantation"; Levine, Internal Combustion, pp. 16-18; Nevins and Hill, 
Ford, p. 348; Joyce Shaw Peterson, "Black Automobile Workers in 
Detroit, 1910-1930," Journal of Negro History 64 (Summer 1979). 

17 . BFRC, accession 74, box 14, Johnston to Carnegie, May 25, 1932; 
Johnston to Carnegie, August 25, 1932; box 16, Johnston to Roberge, 
May 5, 1939. 

18 . BFRC, Reminiscences, E G Liebold, p. 626; Charles Morrow 
Wilson, "Mr. Ford in the Jungle," Harpers, July 1941. 

19 . "Ford's DreamLies in Decay," Los Angeles Times, March 9, 1992; 
Wilson, "Mr. Ford in the Jungle"; Brian Kelly and Mark London, 
Amazon, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983, p. 287. 
Chapter 18: Mountains of the Moon 

L BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, Victor J. Perini (as told by 
Constance Perini). 

2. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 218; BFRC, vertical file, Village 
Industries, General, "One Foot in Industry and One Foot in Soil" (Ford 
Motor Co. Program). 

3. BFRC, accession 74, box 16, Stallard to Johnston, January 13, 1940. 

4. BFRC, accession 74, box 16, Johnston to Roberge, October 23, 
1930. 

5. Morgan Schmidt, "Faming and Patterns of Agrobio diversity on 
the Amazon Floodplan," MS thesis, University of Florida, 2003. 



6. Ions, "A Forest of Disputes." 

7. Ions, "A Forest of Disputes"; Schmidt, "Faming and Patterns of 
Agrobiodiversity"; BFRC, accession 74, box 16, Groth to Johnston, April 
27, 1940. 

8. BFRC, accession 74, box 16, "To the Members of the Belterra 
Garden Club." 

9. BFRC, accession 74, box 17, "lnterplant Comspondence." 

10. Ibid. 

11. BFRC, accession 74, box 16, McClure to Edsel, August 3, 1939. 

12. Ibid. 

13 . "Golf as Molderof Men," Dearborn Independent, August 2, 
1924. 

14. BFRC, accession 390, box 83. 

15 . BFRC, accession 74, box 14, Johnston to Roberge, March 14, 
1939. 

16 . Wik, Henry Ford and Grass-Roots America, p. 224; Collier and 
Horowitz, The Fords, p. 86; BFRC, accession 65, Reminiscences, Oscar 
G Ols en. 

17 . Dearborn Independent, August 6, 1921. 

18 . Watts, Peoples Tycoon, p. 421; Nevins and Hill, Fond, p. 605; 
Dempsey, "Henry Ford's Amazonian Suburbia," p. 44; Marx, The 
Machine in the Garden, p. 18. 

19. BFRC, accession 74, box 14, Roberge to Johnston, May 5, 1939; 
BFRC, accession 74, box 17, "Film and Projectors," Johnston to Roberge, 
March 29, 1937; Edward Tomlinson, "Jungle Gold," Collier's Weekly, 
December 12, 1936. 

20 . BFRC, accession 74, box 16, Pringle to Johnston, November 16, 
1937. Fordlandia footage can be found in the National Archives, Special 
Media Archives Services Division, College Park, Md.; BFRC, accession 
74, box 16, Johnston to Roberge, October 23, 1930. 

21. New York Times, June 27, 1931. 

22. Ford News, June 1, 1928. 

23. Phillips, Brazil, p. 54. 

24. BFRC, accession 74, box 16, McClure to Edsel Ford, August 3, 
1939; Johnston to Roberge, August 10, 1939; box 15, Johnston to Black, 
September 18, 1941; Esch, "Fordtown," p. 119. 

25 . BFRC, accession 74, box 13, "Black Binder," Meadowcroft to 
Rogge, March 17, 1931. 

Chapter 1 9 : Only God Can Grow a Tree 

L Henry Ford, with Samuel Cro wther, My Life and Work, New York: 



Doubleday, Page, 1922, p. 108. 

2. David Campbell, Land of Ghosts: The Braided Lives of People 
and the Forest in Far Western Amazonia, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 
2005, p. 12; Stone, Dreams of Amazonia , p. 28; Harald Sioli, "My life in 
the Amazon" Biotropica 11 (1979): 244-45. 

3. BFRC, accession 390, box86, Johnston to Sorensen, November 17, 
1931. 

4. BFRC, accession 390, box86, Sorensen to Johnston, December 17, 
1931. 

5. BFRC, accession 390, box86, Johnston to Heller, October 22, 1932. 

6. BFRC, accession 38, box61, "Distinctive Brazilian Hardwoods." 

7. BFRC, accession 390, box86, Wibel to Johnston, March 13, 1933; 
Wilkins and Hill, American Business Ahmad, p. 176. 

8. Nevins and Hill, Ford, p. 614; Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 
138. 

9. BFRC, accession 74, box 14, Johnston to Sorensen, October 18, 
1937. 

10 . "With Ford on the Amazon: The Story ofthe Ford Plantation, an 
Eye- Witness," Planter, January 1931, in BFRC, vertical file, "Rubber 
Plantations." 

JJ_. Joseph A. Russell, "Fordlandia and Belterra, Rubber Plantations 
on the Tapajos River, Brazil," Economic Geography 18 (1942): 127; 
Joseph A. Russell, "Alternative Sources of Rubber," Economic 
Geography 17 (1941): 399-408. 

12 . BFRC, accession 74, box 6. 

13 . BFRC, accession 390, box86, Johnston to Sorensen, February 2, 
1932. 

14 . BFRC, accession 390, box86, Carnegie to Johnston, February 16, 
1932. 

15 . Lindbergh, The Wartime Journals, p. 710. 

16 . Nevins, Ford, p. 447, for "edict engineering." 

17 . BFRC, accession 390, box86, Johnston to Sorensen, February 2, 
1932. 

18. BFRC, accession 390,box83, Wibel to Johnston, July 17, 1934. 

19. BFRC, accession 390, box 83, Wibel to Johnston, May 21, 1931. 
Chapter 20: Standard Practices 

\. BFRC, accession 390, box86, Weir to Johnston, March 31, 1933. 

2. BFRC, accession 1514, box 1, Roberge to Weir, July 29, 1937. 

3. BFRC, accession 390, box86, Johnston to Carnegie, September 16, 
1932, in Dean, Struggle for Rubber, p. 75. 



4. Dean, Struggle for Rubber, p. 64; BFRC, accession 390, box86, 
Johnston to Wibel, December 31, 1932. 

5. BFRC, accession 38, box71, Department of Agriculture to Rogge, 
November 8, 1932. 

6. BFRC, accession 390, box 86, Johnston to Wibel, March 13, 1933. 

7. BFRC, accession 390, box 86, Johnston to Wibel, December 31, 
1932. 

8. BFRC, accession 1514, box 1, Johnston to Weir, May 9, 1933. 

9. BFRC, accession 1514, box 1, letters in "1928-1933." 

10. BFRC, accession 390, box 86, Weir to Johnston, March 31, 1933. 

11. Dean, Struggle for Rubber, pp. 76-77; BFRC, accession 390, box 
86, Johnston to Roberge, September 6, 1937. 

12 . BFRC, accession 390, box 86, Johnston to Roberge, September 6, 
1937. 

13 . BFRC, accession 390, box 83, Johnston to WibeL, September 6, 
1937. 

14 . BFRC, accession 74, box 14, Johnston to Roberge, October 16, 
1936. 

15 . BFRC, accession 390, box 83, Johnston to Wibel, September 6, 
1937; BFRC, accession 74, box 1, Johnston to Roberge, July 1, 1936. 

16 . BFRC, accession 74, boxl, Johnston to Roberge, July 1, 1936. 

17 . Dean, Struggle for Rubber, p. 78. 

18 . BFRC, accession 74, box 14, Johnston to Wibel, September 6, 
1937; Johnston to Roberge, September 28, 1936, and October 16, 1936. 

19 . BFRC, accession 390, box 83, Johnston to WibeL, September 6, 
1937. 

Chapter 21 : Bonfire of the Caterpillars 

L Dean, Struggle for Rubber, pp. 53-62, 78. 

2. Phillips, Brazil, p. 54. 

3. BFRC, vertical file, Village Industries, General, 1920s, "Henry Ford 
Says, Fanner- Workmen Will Build Automobile of the Future," published 
in. Automotive Industty, August 28, 1924. 

4. Brian E. Cleven, "Pequaming and Alberta: Henry Ford's Model 
Towns," master's thesis, Department of Social Sciences, Michigan 
Technological University, 1997, p. 131. 

5. Gastao Cruls, "Lmpressoes de Uma Visita a Companhia Ford 
Industrial do Brasil," Revista Brasileira de Geografia, October 1939, pp. 
3-25. 

6. "Fourteen- Year Effort to Produce Plantation Rubber in Brazil Is 
Showing Progress," Washington Post, January 31, 1943. 



7. Kelly and London, Amazon, p. 290; Wilson, "Mr. Ford in the 
Jungle." 

8. Dempsey, "Henry Ford's Amazonian Suburbia." 

9. BFRC, accession 390, box86, Johnston to Wibel, March 4, 1935. 

10 . BFRC, accession 390, box83, "Insect Census of Fordlandia," 
March 29, 1935. 

11. Galey, "Industrialist in the Wilderness," p. 275; BFRC, accession 
74, box 13, "Rubber Production in Amazon \alley." 

12 . BFRC, accession 74, boxl, cited in Johnston to Roberge, April 23, 
1937. 

13. Author's interview with Charles Townsend, grandson of the 
entomologist and son of Charles Townsend, James Weir's assistant, 
June 20, 2008. 

14 . BFRC, accession 390, box83, Johnston to Wibel, February 10, 
1937. 

15 . BFRC, accession 74, box 14, Johnston to Roberge, November 30, 
1938; BFRC, accession 38, box91. 

16 . BFRC, accession 74, box5, clipping; BFRC, Henry Ford Office, 
accession 285, box2155, "Hun-Hunt." 

Chapter 22: Fallen Empire of Rubber 

J_. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 426. 

2. Collier and Horowitz, The Fords, p. 129; Nye, Henry Ford, p. 93. 

3. BFRC, accession 390, box83, Johnston to Wibel, June 8, 1937. 

4. BFRC, accession 74, box 12, correspondence. 

5. BFRC, accession 390, box83, August Report, Johnston to 
Sorensen; Franco, O Tapajos, p. 84; author's interview with Eimar 
Franco, March 16,2008. 

6. Andrew Revkin, The Burning Season: The Murder of Chico 
Mendes and the Fight for the Amazon Rain Forest, Washington, D.C.: 
Island Press, 2004, p. 88. 

7. BFRC, accession 74, box 12; Galey, "Industrialist in the 
Wilderness," p. 282. 

8. Alexander Cockburn and Suzanna Hecht, The Fate of the Forest: 
Developers, Destmyers, and Defenders of the Amazon, London: \erso, 
1989, p. 105. 

9. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 430. 

10 . Baldwin, Henry Ford and the Jews, p. 284. 
JJ.. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 433. 

12 . Collier and Horowitz, The Fotrfs, p. 201 . 

13 . H. G. Sorensen, "Crown Budding for Healthy Hevea," Agriculture 



in the Americas, October 1942. 

14 . "Ford Plantations a Chapter in Romance of Rubber," Christian 
Science Monitor, February 5, 1942; Wilkin s and HilL American Business 
Abroad,pp. 181-82. 

15 . BFRC, accession 74, box 6, "Plantation Report " 

16 . Ibid.; Wilkins and Hill, American Business Abroad, p. 182. 
Chapter 23 : Tomorrow Land 

L Seth Garfield, "Tapping Masculinity: Labor Recruitment to the 
Brazilian Amazon during World War II," Hispanic American Historical 
Review 86 (2006): 275-308; Pedro Martinello, A "Batalha da Borracha " 
na Segunda Guerra Mundial e suas consequencias para o vale 
amazonico, Rio Branco: Universidade Federal do Acre, 1988; Frank D. 
McCann, The Brazilian-American Alliance, 1937-1945, Princeton, N.J.: 
Princeton University Press, 1974. 

2. Dean, Struggle for Rubber, p. 97; BFRC, accession 6, box74, May 
13, 1942; Charles H. T. Townsend, "Progress in Developing Superior 
Hevea Clones in Brazil," Economic Botany 14(1958): 189-96. 

.3. Roland Hall Sharp, South America Uncensored: Jungles of 
Fascism, Genuine Good-Neighborliness, Portrait of a Continent, in 
Search of Frontiers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1945, p. 270; Phillips, 
Brazil, p. 57; Karl Brandt, Reconstruction of World Agriculture , New 
York: Longmans, Green, 1945. 

4. Dean, Struggle for Rubber, p. 97; BFRC, accession 134, box4, 
Camargo to Stallard, December 1, 1944; BFRC, accession 74, box 12, 
Plantation Reports, January 1942- Dec ember 1943; BFRC, accession 7, 
box5, Belterra Monthly Progress Reports, 1941 to 1945. See also the 
reports in accession 74, box 13, related to Belterra. 

5. Steve Mannheim, Walt Disney and the Quest for Community, New 
York: Ashgate Publishing, 1983, p. 26; Barbara Weinstein, "Modernidade 
tropical: Visoes norteamericanas da Amazonia nas vesperas da Guerra 
Fria," Revista do 1EB 45, September 2007, pp. 153-76; "Film to Cite 
Riches of South America," New York Times, December 30, 1941. 

6. BFRC, accession 285, box2629. 

7. Andre Luiz Vieira de Campos, "International Health Policies in 
Brazil: The Servico Especial de Saiide Piiblica, 1942-1960 " PhD 
dissertation, University of Texas, Austin, 1997, p. 75; BFRC, accession 6, 
box 74, Johnston to Wooley, October 26, 1942. 

8. Columbia University, Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection, 
"James G. McDonald," "Confidential memorandumof McDonald-Ford 
Negotiations in Dearborn," April 1, 1941. 



9. Brinkley, Wheels for the World, p. 501; Collier and Horowitz, The 
Fords, p. 161. 

10 . Bennett, We Never Called Him Henry, p. 285; Brinkley, Wheels for 
the World, p. 478. 

JJ_. Howard Segal, "What Bill Ford Is Learning from Great-Grandpa," 
History News Network, http://hiin.us/roundLip/cntries/2Q94Q.html 
January 23, 2006; Earl L. Doyle and Ruth MacFarlane, The History of 
Pequaming, Ontonagon, Mich.: Ontonagon County Historical Society, 
2002, p. 167; Cleven, "Pequaming and Alberta," p. 109. 
Epilogue: Still Waiting for Henry Ford 

L "Amazonia — A Granary Out of the Jungle," New York Times, July 
31, 1949; Felisberto Camargo, "Report on the Amazon Region," Problems 
of Humid Tropical Regions, Paris: United Nations Educational, 
Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 1958, pp. 11-22; "Wait for the 
Weeping Wood," Time, July 26, 1948. 

2. Dean, Struggle for Rubber, pp. 102, 115. 

3. Ibid., p. 115. 

4. "Brazil's Famous City of Folly," Washington Post, February 15, 
1914. 

5. "Brazil's Famous City of Folly"; Joseph Novitsky, "Boom, Bust, 
and Now BoomAgain in Amazon Town," New York Times, July 1, 1969. 

6. "Jungle Trade Zone Tries to Survive, Far fromMarkets in a 
Changing World," Associated Press, July 5, 2005; "Brazil's Resurgent 
Amazon Powerhouse," BBC News, August 29, 2006. 

7. "Race to the Bottom: Mexico Lowers Wages to Snag International 
Auto Production," International Herald Tribune, June 8, 2008; "Half of 
World's Population Will Live in Cities Next Year, UN Report Says," 
lnteinational Herald Tribune, June 27, 2007. 

8. Jeb Blount, "Ford's Dream Lies in Decay," Los Angeles Times, 
March 9, 1993. 

9. Rhett A. Butler, "Deforestation in the Amazon," 
http://wvv'vvnx)ngabav.conVbfazil.html#caUlc (accessed May 8, 2008). 

10 . "Amazon's Rescue Reversed," Guardian, January 25, 2008; 
Alexei Barrionuevo, "With Guns and Fines, Brazil Takes on Loggers," 
New York Times, April 19, 2008. 

11. Monte Reel, "Brazil Pursues Crackdown on Loggers," 
Washington Post, March 21, 2008; TimHirsch, "Brazilian Town at Centre 
of Crackdown," Telegraph, March 3, 2008. 

12 . Michael Smith and David \6reacos, "The Secret World of 
Modern Slavery," Bloomberg.com, December 2006, 



http://www.blooiribergxQnVncvvs/nTLirketsiTOg/i"nodcrn_s laveryl.html 
(accessed May 12,2008). 

13 . Woods Hole Research Center Press Release, "World's Largest 
Rainforest Drying Experiment Completes First Phase," 
http://wmy.curckalert.onj/piib releases/2005-03/whrc-w'lr032l05.php . 

14 . Heidi Sopinka, "Spilling the Beans on Soy," 
http://www.conTmondreaiTK.org/archive/2007/10/26/4832/ . 

15. AlexBellos, "Blood Crop," Telegraph, October 13, 2007, 
http://www.1clegraph.co.Lik . eailh/nnin.jhtml? 
xml/earth/2007/10/13/sm soya.xml &page=l (accessed May 12, 2008). 

16 . Scott Wallace, "Last of the Amazon," National Geographic ; 
January 2007, p. 70; Bellos, "Blood Crop"; Indira Lakshmanan, "Amazon 
Highway Is Route to Strife in Brazil," Boston Globe, December 27, 2005. 

12- 

http://cps.aena.br/cps arquivos/fg/provasanleriores arquivos/provadiscurs ivaturismo.pdf 
(accessed May 8, 2008). 



IT J ,1 TSTR ATTON CREDITS 

Grateful acknowledgemsnt is made to the following individuals and 
institutions forpemiission to publish images from their collections: Stephanie 
Lucas, Carol Whittaker, and JimOrr of the Benson Ford Research Center at The 
Henry Ford (Dearborn, Michigan); Melanie Bazil of the Henry Ford Hospital; 
Silvia Inwood of the Detroit Institute of Arts; Matthew Westerby of The 
Metropolitan MuseumofArt; Karen Hass of The Lane Collection of the 
Museumof Fine Arts, Boston; Jill Slaight of The New- York Historical Society; 
JimDetlefsen at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, James 
Dompier at Baraga County Historical Society (Michigan); John Brunton of the 
Devon County Council Devon Record Office (UK); and Leonardo F. Freitas. 

The material appears on the following pages : 

From the collection of The Henry Ford: 36, 59, 129, 137, 139, 141, 154, 

172, 174, 184, 187, 190, 195, 197, 200, 207, 221, 224, 231, 255, 270, 271, 273, 

274-75, 281, 282, 283, 284, 287, 288, 297, 317, 321, 322, 326 

Conrad R LamArchives & Historical Collections of the Henry Ford 

Hospital: 297 

Daniel Schoepf, George Huebner 1862-1935: Un Photographe a 
Manaus: 27, 29 

Collection of the The New- York Historical Society: 67 

Devon Record Office (reproduced by permission of the owners of 
the Luxmoore papers [D.5121M]): 91, 131, 215 

The Metropolitan MuseumofArt, with permission fromthe Lane 
Collection: 248 

Diego Rivera, Detroit Industry, North Wall (detail, 1932-1933); Gift 
of Edsel B. Ford, photograph © 2001, The Detroit Institute of Arts : 250 
James R Weir, Pathological Survey of the Para Rubber Tree : 328 
Baraga County Historical Society: 352 
Leonardo F. Freitas : 368 

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum 24 



ACKNOWI EDCMFNTS 

First thanks go to Sara Bershtel, as ruthless a rationalizer of words as Henry 
Ford himself of movement. It's a privilege, and enormous fun, to work with her. 
I'm also grateful to Riva Hocherman for helping to make all the right decisions 
and to Roslyn Schloss for her impressive copyediting skills. Megan Quirk was 
wonderful shepherding the book through editing and production. I want to 
thank Barbara Weinstein, TomRogers, Joel Wolfe, Seth Garfield, Bryan 
McCann, Karl Jacoby, TomMcCarthy, Karen Robert, Betsy Esch, and Joe 
Jackson for helpful discussions, leads, corrections, and suggestions. Michelle 
Chase, Rosalind Leveridge, Daniel Rodriguez, and Lindsey Qsh assisted with 
key research. Susan Rabiner helped give shape to the project at its early stages 
and has been supportive throughout. Thanks also to the children of Fordlandia, 
as well as others who have memories of the project, for taking time to share 
them with me, including Charles Townsend, Leanor Weeks, FJnar Oxholm, 
Raymundo Miranda, Diogo Franco, Eimar Franco, Roger Rogge, Douglas Riker, 
and David Riker. Gil Serique provided indispensible help navigating around the 
Tapajos, and for sharing the history of his family. I'mthankful for the support 
librarians and archivists gave me along the way, including Carol Whittaker of 
the Benson Ford Research Center, Melanie Bazil of the Henry Ford Hospital, 
and Jamie Myler of the Ford Motor Company Archives. Much appreciation also 
to friends and colleagues, including Marilyn Young, Sinclair Thompson, Jack 
Wilson, Ada Ferrer, Bob Wheeler, Steve Fraser, Molly Nolan, Corey Robin, 
Maureen Linker, Scott Saul, Robert Perkinson, Jo lie Olcott, Laura Brahm, 
Deborah Levenson, LizOglesby, Gil Joseph, Harry Harootunian, Kristin Ross, 
Kieko Matteson, Carlota McAllister, Linda Gordon, Mark Weisbrot, Diane 
Nelson, Di Paton, Frank Goldman, Peter Brown, Gordon Lafer, Matt Hausmann, 
Rachel Kirtner, Debbie Poole, Gerardo Renique, Toshi Goswani, and Tannia 
Goswami, forsupport in different ways. And Manu, who deserves thanks for 
this and everything. I'd like to dedicate the book to Emilia Motti da Costa, who 
continues to be a wonderful teacher. 



ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

GREGGRANDINis the author of Empim's Workshop, The Last Colonial 
Massacre, and the award-winning The Blood of Guatemala. A professor of 
history at New York University and a Guggenheim fellow, Grandin has served on 
the United Nations Truth Commission investigating the Guatemalan civil war 
and has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New Statesman, The 
London Review of Books, Harpers, and The New York Times.